Healthy Connections Summer 2020: In Focus

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Sleep Your Way
to Good Health

Sleep isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Learn how to improve this critical function

Sleep plays a critical role in numerous aspects of our health, from our cognition to our hormones. Even missing an hour of sleep per night can have a measurable impact on our waking life. The Vidant North Sleep Lab helps people with chronic sleep disorders regain the restful night’s sleep they need.

The human body is hardwired to spend roughly one-third of every day asleep. During that time, many processes are activated—from releasing enzymes to the repair of cells—all of which have an important bearing on how we function. Sleep is a time of restoration and rejuvenation. Good sleep can even help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease, think more clearly and make better decisions.

Your need for sleep is controlled by a variety of factors, such as your age, weight, diet, general health and level of physical activity. Most healthy adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Children and teens need more—at least 8–10 hours for teens, 9–12 hours for adolescents, 11–14 hours for toddlers and 12–16 hours for babies.

The National Institutes of Health reports some 70 million Americans suffer from recurring sleep problems, including insomnia and sleep apnea. Stress, anxiety, disease, medications, caffeine and poor health in general can all contribute to lost sleep or difficulty falling asleep. While occasionally missing a good night’s sleep is normal, sleep problems that occur regularly may indicate a more serious disorder. Check with your doctor if you experience any of the following.

1 Chronic insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep, commonly occurs as the result of stress, changing schedules, poor sleep habits or eating too much late in the evening. It may also be associated with health issues, use of certain drugs, mental health problems, sleep disorders, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

2 Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring or pauses in breathing while asleep. It is usually related to a person’s physical structure and risk factors like lifestyle habits and the environment. Because sleep apnea can present a serious health threat, you should not ignore these signs.

3 Narcolepsy, caused by autoimmune disorders, family history and, rarely, brain injuries, is a disorder in which a person experiences excessive daytime sleepiness combined with sudden muscle weakness.

4 Restless leg syndrome, whose cause is unknown in most cases, can also interfere with sleep by causing pain, which is relieved by movement of the leg.

If a good night’s sleep often eludes you, the Vidant North Sleep Lab offers sleep studies and evaluations to learn what’s causing your problem and provide many treatment options.

Do’s and Don’ts for the Best Sleep

DO manage your energy levels. Change your daily routine to include physical activity in the morning, low caffeine intake in the evening, few naps, moderate alcohol and no nicotine.

DO turn off your device about an hour before going to bed. It’s tempting to end the day with screen time, but the light from most devices promotes wakefulness.

DON’T keep the lights on. Light interferes with sleep, so make sure your sleeping area is as dark as possible.

DON’T keep an erratic sleep schedule. Sticking to a set bedtime helps your body develop an expectation of falling asleep at that time.


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