Sleep is a basic requirement for health. We need sleep to fight:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Support our metabolism
- Prevent diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
And to cognitively function optimally in our everyday lives.
Shortened sleep (less than six ours a night) has increased dramatically over the last 30 years. Also, intermittent sleep disturbances throughout the night result in fatigue, disorientation, and decreased alertness. Many people that are depressed, have PTSD, and poor interpersonal relationships, can point to the origins of their psychological problems from diminished sleep. Sleep problems exhibited by restlessness or waking up in the middle of the night are common symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. A bad night’s sleep can dull our thinking, make it hard to concentrate, and diminish our memory, creating a negative effect on our wellbeing.
Frequent use of sleeping medication is not the panacea for addressing sleep disorders, as its persistent use, puts people at a higher risk of developing dementia. Even people who use sleep medication as infrequently as five times a month are at a risk for developing dementia.
As of recent, people are beginning to realize that there is a huge correlation between the breathing disorder of obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality. When we have a blockage at the back of our throats, we can’t breathe, and our brains wake us up because we are not getting enough oxygen. As we get older, the muscle tone in the back of our throats lessens, causing our soft palate to drop and close the airway. Being overweight and having a large neck circumference, or being a smoker, also causes a narrowing of the back of the throat. Alcohol usage relaxes the muscles in the back of the throat also causing apnea, or closure of the airway. Weight loss and exercise help, but in most cases the back of the throat needs to be physically opened with either a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) or an oral appliance that advances the lower jaw and pulls the tongue forward opening the air way at the back of the throat. The majority of people do not tolerate using the CPAP on a routine basis and the oral appliance has proven to be highly successful.
There is a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and cancers. When we can’t breathe at night, the resulting decreased oxygen causes our body to stimulate the creation of new blood vessels. This additional blood supply encourages tumor growth.
If you experience insomnia, restlessness, interruptions in sleep due to gasping for breath, snoring, sleep deprivation, sleepiness, seek help! Prioritize sleep and make it important. Your health, your family, and your fellow brothers and sisters will all benefit with you being optimally healthy and mentally aware.