Make sure to catch those Zzzs

  • Tue Nov 8th, 2011 6:57pm

By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

Most people do not get enough sleep at night, negatively affecting their moods, motor skills and appetites.

“The downside of sleep deprivation is it affects us on many fronts,” said Dr. Robert H. McCoy, a sleep specialist and medical director of Swedish/Edmonds Respiratory Care.

Mood swings, learning and attention deficit disorders, depression and anxiety are linked to sleep deprivation, McCoy said.

“One-third of the population is experiencing insomnia any one night,” he said.

Other sleep deprivation side effects include a decrease in memory, and simple activities such as driving long distances become tedious.

“Sleep deprivation can affect us as much as alcohol while driving,” McCoy said.

For example, someone awake 16 hours will have lessened motor skills and after 24 hours of wakefulness, a person will be as impaired as one with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08.

A good night’s rest is recognized as a key aspect of promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing chronic diseases in the public health community, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of sleep is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Roughly one-quarter of Americans report occasionally getting insufficient sleep.

Sleep deprivation is also linked to obesity, as people tend to reach for food to help them stay awake. The hormones leptin, which turns your appetite off, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, work against people by taking longer to signal when one is full and overstimulating appetite.

McCoy also recommends people maintain a predictable sleep schedule so their biorhythms will know when it’s time to sleep and stay awake.

Removing distractions such as TVs, laptops and texting on cell phones will help people fall asleep. Rituals to signal it’s time for bed could include reading to help keep your mind off daily stress.

When someone is distressed about over- or under-sleeping, that’s the time to talk to their doctor, McCoy said.

Swedish/Edmonds provides a Sleep Center to diagnose and treat sleep disorders including snoring, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. Other sleep complications include unexplained fatigue, sleep apnea, and problems tied to shift work and jet lag.

Approximately 30 to 40 million Americans suffer from serious sleep disorders, said Dr. Robert Cox, a sleep specialist and medical director of Swedish/Edmonds Sleep Center, on the hospital’s website.

Sleep disorders, when left untreated, can significantly increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and accidents, Cox said.

A team of physicians, sleep specialists and registered technologists consult with patients, conduct sleep studies and determine a treatment plan for patients.

“Unfortunately, many sleep disorders go undiagnosed and people suffer needlessly from sleep loss because they don’t know they need medical attention,” Cox said.

Sleep tips

Dr. Robert McCoy’s tips for getting sound sleep:

1) Make sleep a priority. The average adult needs eight and one-quarter hours of sleep per night but are only getting six.

2) Maintain a predictable sleep schedule.

3) Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.

4) Prepare yourself for sleep.

By the numbers

How many hours people need and how much they get:

• The average adult needs eight and one-quarter hours of sleep

• Married couples with children reach about six hours.

• High school and college-aged people need nine to nine-and-a-quarter hours of sleep but only get seven

• Children and infants who require 10 to 14 hours of sleep are the most likely to achieve that