The Importance of Sleep

January 2, 2012 By

As your physical therapy providers, we help you relieve pain with a combination of exercises and other treatment techniques, but nothing helps muscle recovery more than rest and relaxation. We would like to take a moment to have you step back and help you reexamine the importance of sleep. Sleep is a very important part of our lives for the following reasons: 1. Learning and memory Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory; a process called memory consolidation. 2. Metabolism and weight Being overweight can increase the likelihood of suffering from sleep disorders like apnea. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain. That’s why the right amount of sleep is very important. 3. Mood/quality of life Lack of sleep (long- or short-term) may result in symptoms like irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. In some cases, anxiety and depression are also likely to occur. 4. Cardiovascular health Serious sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea have been linked to high blood pressure, increased stress hormone levels, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased inflammation. 5. Immunity/risk of disease Though all the mechanisms aren’t clear, scientists have found that sleep deprivation alters immune function. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may find yourself falling sick more often.

How Much Sleep? 7 Hours or More…

Sadly, we live in a sleep deprived society. Some studies suggest that 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by some type of sleep disorder. It’s likely that you need to make a conscious effort to get more (sound) sleep. The human body needs at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. However, it’s not just the duration of sleep, but also the quality that matters. Lack of sleep can cause several problems. Aside from drowsiness, it can cause immune, nervous system, endocrine and cardiovascular issues.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation

As your physical therapists, we want you to get the most out of every exercise routine we design for you, but adequate sleep is the foundation for recovery and strength. Sleep deprivation can set off a chain of events that can affect different parts of your life. These may include:

  • Poor health caused by bad food choices.  A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discovered that people, especially women, who suffered from sleep apnea tend to consume foods that are high in cholesterol, protein and fat.
  • Impaired sugar metabolism and diabetes are more likely in those who get five hours of sleep (or less) a day.
  • Both factors above can lead to weight gain and obesity.
  • The incidence of car accidents increases when sleep deprived individuals are behind the wheel.
  • Heart attacks are more likely when you sleep five hours or less.
  • Balance problems and falls are more likely (especially in the elderly).
  • Children who don’t get enough sleep tend to be irritable, and in extreme cases, show behavioral issues.

When you get enough sleep, your body functions better. We want you to be the best you can be, physically and mentally, which is why we want you to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep and planning an exercise program to improve your strength and flexibility will be one of the most important things you do in 2012, and we are standing by to assist you.

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This post was written by Andrew Clary MS MPT ATC