Healthy Living

Sleep: The New Health Frontier

Sleep: The New Health Frontier

Sleep revitalizes the body’s ability to function in daily activities.  Dr. David Rapoport, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU School of Medicine, says, “What isn’t common knowledge is that it really matters—it’s not just cosmetic.” Rapoport works and diagnoses people who need sleep therapy when they are chronically exhausted or suffer from insomnia.

Referrals to sleep centers because of disorders, mental health issues and simple diseases are now becoming quite common.

Sleep is crucial for weight management and hormone balance. Not enough sleep may cause diabetes and heart disease, as well as depression. There is a great deal of research being conducted, and mounting evidence shows that sleep has a part in almost every bit of your health.

Children’s behavioral problems in school might be because of light sleep apnea. Studies show that insufficient sleep may cause ADHD in children. Sleep is indispensable for childhood learning and development, plus sleep is the foundation for the preservation of memories.

A study written up in the journal Sleep discovered a link proving that older men who have an insufficient sleep can experience cognitive decline. Dr. Allan Rechtschaffen, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago, said, “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process ever made.”

What is sleep?

Sleep is one of the most critical parts of your daily patterns. One-third of your time in a 24-hour period is taken up by sleeping. Valuable sleep and at the right times is as vital to your quality of life as water and food. You cannot maintain or build the paths in your brain that help you create new memories and learn new things without proper sleep. It's hard to concentrate and quickly respond if you haven’t had enough rest.

Sleep is essential to many brain functions. How nerve cells or neurons communicate with each other, and how you interact with others depends on getting enough sleep. Your brain and body are active while you rest. Sleep is the housekeeper that removes the toxins in your brain that build up in your waking hours.

Although we all need sleep, it’s biological purpose is somewhat a mystery. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep increases the risk of disorders like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, depression, and obesity. Sleep is complex and dynamic, and studies show how important it is in reasonable health. But what is not known is exactly why.

What happens when you sacrifice sleep?

Sleep is sacrificed by chronic illnesses, overwork, or just the impression that sleep is not necessary.

In 2011, Lynn Mitchell, 68, was sleeping only an hour of solid sleep a night. She was stressed about her cancer treatments and paying for that stress in lost sleep. Lynn was often dizzy and would lose her balance, common in a diagnosis of brain cancer. But, her lack of sleep was making things worse. Walking was becoming difficult, and Lynn was totally exhausted in the mornings. Her health was progressing so poorly that Lynn was often incoherent. Doctors recommended Lynn to see a sleep therapist; they recognized the effect lack of sleep was having on Lynn’s body.

Lynn worked with the therapist for about nine weeks and was able to adjust her sleep habits. She went to bed when she was extremely tired, quit watching television in bed and stopped drinking caffeinated coffee in the evenings. She even learned breathing exercises that helped her to relax and go to sleep.