4 good reasons to get 40 good winks

An old Irish proverb offers some pretty sound advice: A good laugh and a good long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

An old Irish proverb offers some pretty sound advice: A good laugh and a good long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

Too many people in the United States are chronically tired. The National Sleep Foundation reports that as many as 47 million are sleep-deprived. Half don’t get the recommended minimum 7 hours of sleep daily, and 70 percent of U.S. teenagers don’t get the 9 to 10 hours they need.

“In today’s 24/7 world we sometimes feel like we have to give up something to get in everything we want or need to do, but sleep is too important to sacrifice,” said Scott A. McClure, MBA, RRT, manager,  Sleep Disorder Services, at Norton Healthcare.

Here are four good reasons to get 40 good winks as often as you can.

  • Sleep your way to better health. Ample information shows the relationship between good sleep and good health. According to the National Institutes of Health, inadequate sleep is linked to serious health problems, including diabetes, depression, mental illness and cancer.

David Winslow, M.D., medical director, Norton Sleep Centers points to mounting evidence of a strong connection between sleep disorders, heart disease and cognitive decline. “Sleep apnea is as much a risk factor for coronary disease as high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” he said.

According to Dr. Winslow, a new study in the Journal of Neurology shows that among those who have sleep apnea, dementia tends to occur at a significantly younger age. “The age difference is striking. Participants with sleep apnea were found to develop Alzheimer’s up to 10 years earlier than those without apnea,” said Dr. Winslow.

  • Keep your body clock ticking. Each of us has an internal body clock that controls our natural sleep and wake rhythms. If you’ve ever done shift work or suffered jet lag, you know how hard it is to reset this clock. New research shows we actually have multiple clocks that control virtually all our organs. Fred Turek, a scientist at Northwestern University, explained recently on National Public Radio that these clocks govern everything from our pancreas and stomach to our fat cells. Turek said, “We humans are time-keeping machines. And it seems we need regular sleeping and eating schedules to keep all of our clocks in sync.”
  • Avoid unwanted pounds. Want to lose weight? Get enough sleep. Skimping on sleep slows your metabolism. If you’re overtired, you may have less energy to exercise or cook healthy meals. The later you stay up, the more prone you are to eat late-night snacks. Sleep also plays a critical role in regulating the body’s hormones, such as leptin, which signals you to feel full and quit eating.
  • Think better, act nicer and get more done. Sufficient sleep alone can’t transform a Grumpy Gus into Sammy Sunshine, or a slacker into a dynamo, but studies show sleep-deprived people do tend to be crankier and less productive. When you’re overtired, your problem-solving skills suffer, and you’re more likely to make mistakes. Your concentration may falter and your memory may fog. Our brains need sleep to process and store memories correctly.

So, what can you do to get more of these all-important ZZZs? McClure suggests some helpful “sleep hygiene” tips:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even when you’re off work.
  • Increase your exposure to natural sunlight. Darken your bedroom when it’s sleep time. If need be, try a sleep mask.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking (all are stimulants). Skip big late-night meals, but enjoy a light carb-rich snack before bed if you feel hungry.
  • Exercise regularly. Even 20 to 30 minutes daily helps promote healthy sleep, but avoid working out too close to bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom a zone for sleep or private time only (no television or computer time).

Signs of a possible sleep disorder — especially among those with high blood pressure — include snoring, being told you stop breathing or gasp during sleep, and waking up numerous times. If you’re excessively tired and fatigued over time, even after trying some of the usual solutions, it may be time to seek help from a sleep professional.


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