It seems that you see a lot of articles about sleep these days, and you might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal about sleep?”
Well, a full, healthy night of sleep is normal and vital to your mental and physical well-being. Not getting a good night’s sleep is not normal, is not healthy and may lead to a need to see a doctor.
Whether you get a good night’s sleep can impact everything from beauty and weight, to health and concentration — it can even affect your sex life. Sleep experts warn that not getting your beauty sleep can make it difficult to lose weight and has a dramatic affect on the health and appearance of your skin and eyes. On a more serious side, a chronic lack of sleep can lead to depression, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and even death.
While there is no magic number for the amount of sleep you need, here are some guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation to help you determine what a normal amount of sleep is for you:
- Children 5-12 years 10-11 hours
- Teens 13-17 years 8.5-9.25 hours
- Adults 7-9 hours
Poor sleep may stem from a myriad of things, including insomnia, medical conditions, reactions to medications and sleep apnea. It’s important to pinpoint the cause of your sleeplessness in order to determine whether or not it is necessary to see your doctor.
Some people experience a brief period of insomnia due to jet leg, shift work, the stress of an event (e.g., weddings, funerals, relocation, work deadline), a cold or flu type illness, or from side effects of pain medications prescribed for an injury or post-operation. But if you have experienced insomnia for more than a couple of weeks, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause of the problem and how you can get back to a healthy sleeping pattern.
Left unchecked, a lack of sleep can:
- Increase the risk and severity of long-term illness (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes).
- Lead to weight gain or obesity.
- Negatively affect the immune system.
- Lead to depression, anxiety disorder and substance abuse.
- Increase risk of accidents due to slower reaction time.
- Decrease performance at work or school.
So if you think that a trip to the doctor is a good idea for you, here are a few things you can do to make your visit more productive:
- Keep a sleep log/diary: Include information like your sleep schedule, when it is difficult to sleep, how often you wake up at night, occurrences of tiredness during the day, etc.
- Make note of any symptoms you notice: Are you having trouble concentrating? Do you feel moody? Are you irritable?
- Bring a list of medications and supplements you are taking.
- Know your medical history, including dates and times of major procedures.
- Consider bringing your spouse if you think he or she can provide helpful information about your sleep problems, including issues like snoring, unusual turning and shifting, and such.
With your doctor’s help, you may discover that you have insomnia that can be treated with behavioral therapy rather than medications, or you may receive an order for an overnight sleep study, which can diagnose sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can severely hinder your sleep and overall health, but it is treatable with CPAP and BiPAP therapy.
It is recommended that you have your sleep study conducted in a “well facility” that specializes in sleep medicine. It is also advisable to shop around to make sure that your insurance is in-network and to find out what it will cost you if your insurance has a high deductible or copay before you schedule. Costs can vary greatly from facility to facility.
Take control of your health and make sure that you’re getting the much-needed sleep your body deserves. After all, life’s a big deal — take care of yourself so you can make the most of it!
Karen Block is the owner/administrator of Endeavor Therapy & Sleep Center, 11649 North Port Washington Road in Mequon. We are open seven nights a week for our patients’ convenience and have availability of a board certified sleep physician. For more information about sleep issues, please call 262-241-8892 or visit http://endeavortherapyandsleep.com.