Sleep Isn’t Optional
About ⅓ of our life is spent sleeping. We spend so much time trying to enjoy our waking lives, it makes sense to support our daytime quality of life by getting the best sleep possible.
Sleep is necessary for growth and repair. Research tells us sleep is for our brains and not as much for our body. Meaning, if it wasn’t necessary for our brains to actually get sleep, then we could spend those critical 8 or so hours watching TV or vegetating on the sofa (while resting our body). But, it doesn’t work that way. If we don’t sleep, our thinking, and our longevity suffers. We are literally cutting our life and quality of life short if we don’t sleep.
Sleep is like a neurological dust mop or “Swiffer.” Sleep helps clean up something called beta amyloid – a sticky protein that can build up in the brain and form plaques. It is a substance that has been strongly linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Let’s Stop Glorifying Busy
The glorification of busy has led to bragging about sleep deprivation as a badge of productivity. But there is an enormous body of scientific evidence that shows us a lack of quality sleep leads to exactly the opposite – impaired cognition and decreased productivity.
Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine has this to say about a lack of sleep:
“In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine
Despite the recognized health importance of quality sleep, the Committee on Sleep Medicine & Research reports that between 50 and 70 million adults in the US experience chronic sleep disturbances and the National Sleep Foundation reports that 62% experience a sleep problem several nights a week.
The unfortunate reality is that up to 90% of sleep issues remain “undiagnosed and untreated” (Colten and Altevogt 2006); which means the numbers reported about sleep deprivation are likely far higher.
Insufficient sleep is a public health problem.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Types of Sleep Issues
What type of issues constitute a sleep problem? How do you know if you have a sleep issue?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine defines the following sleep issues:
- Chronic insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or waking up too early at least 3 nights/week for the past 3 months. It is estimated that 50% of adults experience occasional insomnia.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: recurrent episodes of upper airway blockage during sleep which leads to decreased oxygen saturation and increased effort to breathe .
- Restless legs syndrome – a neurological condition that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs during rest; Can be accompanied with burning, itching, throbbing, or other similar feelings. Movement provides relief but can be temporary.
What Lack of Sleep Does To You
Sleep researcher and physical therapist Dr. Catherine Siengsukon and her colleagues report the following problems associated with lack of sleep and/or poor sleep quality in a 2017 article published in the journal of Physical Therapy:
- Impaired immune function and tissue healing – Anyone healing from trauma or a disease or impairment that affects immunity; or those who are older and have impaired immunity already, need sleep even more than those without these issues.
- Pain management and perception – If you have impaired sleep you are most likely to report increased pain and sensitivity to pain. Likewise, those with pain also report less quality and quantity of sleep. Those with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, low back pain, and painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy report less sleep time and less quality sleep.
- Depression and insomnia – 75% of those with these issues report problems with sleep.
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Problems with motor skills (physical movement learning).
- Cognitive Function – The most common areas of thinking that lack of sleep impacts is attention and working memory. Sleep deprivation also slows down reaction time and increases the likelihood of making mistakes.
- Increased risk of neurologic conditions, rehabilitation outcomes, and early death – This refers to the beta amyloid (Aß) clearing mentioned above. The study showed that beta amyloid is cleared from the brain only (in mice) that were asleep. Other studies also underscore the role of sleep impairment in Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases.
Take The Sleep Quiz
Get Your Free “Simple Tips for Better Sleep” Handout
Other helpful resources on sleep
- Why Does Sleep Matter in Women’s Health? https://celebratemuliebrity.com/2019/08/why-does-sleep-matter-in-womens-health/?fbclid=IwAR0zUx6q4Fth3tCuhCzS8tCFF5yA25vvs8R2jRxkjhiAx3hCEtCqctkBUcg
- Healthy Sleep Tips – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips
- CDC Sleep Resources – https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/resources.html
- Insomnia Tips – https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/insomnia-tips
Hope your next sleep is the best yet!
About the Author
Ginger is a passionate, unapologetic advocate of improving access to healthcare, a mother to 3 sons, & a 20+ year veteran in Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine in women’s health physical therapy & athletic training. She is the author of Medical Therapeutic Yoga, founder of Living Well Institute, owner of EudeMOMIa Integrative PT & Lifestyle Medicine, and most recently uprooted to Greensboro, NC with her family after 21 years of beach living, where they and their rescue pup Scout are wildly joyous about their new hometown.
- Colten HR, Altevogt BM; Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2006.
- National Sleep Foundation. Sleep in America poll: adults’ sleep habits and styles. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2005_summary_of_findings.pdf. Published March 2005.
- Siengsukon CF, Al-dughmi M, Stevens S. Sleep Health Promotion: Practical Information for Physical Therapists. Phys Ther. 2017;97(8):826-836. doi:10.1093/ptj/pzx057.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insufficient sleep is a public health problem. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html & http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Revised: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Chicago, IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2001.
- Xie L, Kang H, Xu Q et al. Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain. Science. 2013;342:373–377. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24136970
- Garner, G & Prutsman, K. Simple Tips to Better Sleep Infographic. PYTI®. August 2019.
This and all blog posts related to yoga and/or physical therapy on www.drgingergarner.com and/or www.integrativelifestylemed.com are not a substitute for medical advice and are not a prescription or program for individualized physical therapy. You must seek the advice of your health care provider and, only after a thorough physical examination and clearance, participate in any movement or exercise program.