Why a Good Night’s Sleep is Important and How to Get it Tonight

May 19, 2016

May is Better Sleep Month:
Why a Good Night’s Sleep is Important and How to Get it Tonight

We all know sleep is important.  We’ve been told so by our mothers and fathers, and we’ve told our children the same.  We’ve seen news reports of car accidents caused by people “asleep at the wheel” and witnessed far lighter misfortunes in “caught snoring” videos on YouTube.  But beyond that, what is the danger in missing a few hours of shut-eye each night?  Why is sleep so important?

“Sleep is a crucial to a person’s well-being,” says Christopher David Perry, MD of Midlands Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.  “It’s your body’s time to recharge its batteries for the next day.” 

Multiple hazards are associated with a lack of adequate sleep, warns Dr. Perry, including functional impairments, hormonal imbalances, worsening of mood disorders, memory related issues, and even worsening of other chronic health issues. 

“With too little sleep, stress hormones and inflammatory markers increase, the immune system weakens, and neurologic impairment results.”  That’s like removing your body’s first line of defense, while asking its big guns to be ready in case they’re needed.  You’re drawing on resources that require more energy, when you have less energy to access.  The result is fatigue, manifested mentally, muscularly and/or in your immune system. 

Without enough sleep, any condition that you’re prone to gets stronger while your defenses get weaker.  If you’re prone to seizures, your seizure tolerance diminishes.  If you struggle with OCD, you’ll be less resistant to mental looping.  If you struggle with anxiety, you increase your risk of a panic attack when you aren’t properly rested.  If your body is fighting a cold, you’re more likely to catch it full-blown if you’re lacking sleep.  “Missing needed sleep is like hitting the turbo button on whatever ill-health issues you are battling,” says Dr. Perry. 

Yet knowing you should have more sleep and getting it are two very different things. In fact, stressing about the need for sleep may hinder your ability to get it.  Fortunately, there are methods to improve your sleep that you can put into place today.

“As a sleep specialist, we talk a lot about sleep hygiene,” says Dr. Perry. That involves establishing regular sleep and wake times, doing exercise in the morning instead of at night, reserving your bed only for sleep and disallowing any digital screens from the sleep area.” Dr. Perry also listed recommendations of things to avoid in order to promote healthy sleep:

  • bright lights in the evening hours (opt for lamps instead of florescents)
  • late meals
  • caffeine after noon
  • naps
  • stimulating medicines or substances late in the day

“Medical disorders such as asthma, reflux and chronic pain should also be treated appropriately in order for your body to submit to deep healthy sleep,” says Dr. Perry.

If you are concerned that you are not getting adequate sleep, and have tried enacting the tips above, talk to your primary care doctor or consider seeking out a sleep specialist.  Sleep deprivation is one nightmare that you don’t want to haunt you. 

Christopher David Perry, MD, board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, and Critical Care Medicine, and Sleep Medicine, is one of the founders of Midlands Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, an affiliate of Providence Hospitals that provides specialized care in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic lung and breathing disorders, sleep diagnostics and management of critical illness.

Midlands Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
1655 Bernardin Avenue, Suite 350, Columbia, South Carolina 29204
Phone: 803-253-7575 Fax: 803-253-7571