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A Good Night’s Sleep Is Important to Overall Health March 10, 2010

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

A Good Night’s Sleep Is Important to Overall Health

AUGUSTA, GA. (March 5, 2010) – March 7-13 is National Sleep Awareness Week, a good time for people to try to understand the basics of the sleep/wake cycle.

According to Beth Barranco, a registered nurse at University Hospital, the cycle consisting of roughly 8 hours of nocturnal sleep and 16 hours of daytime wakefulness, is controlled by two internal influences: sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms.

Homeostasis is the process by which the body maintains a steady state of internal conditions such as blood pressure, body temperature and acid-base balance

Circadian rhythms refer to the cyclical changes like fluctuations in body temperature, hormone levels and sleep that occur over a 24-hour period. It is driven by the brain's biological clock

“Light and darkness are external signals that set the biological clock and help us determine when we feel the need to wake or go to sleep,” Ms. Barranco explained.

Are there different types of sleep?

There are two types of sleep: REM and NREM

NREM or Non-Rapid Eye Movement

  • is characterized by a reduction of physiological activity
  • breathing and heart rate slows down, blood pressure and body temp drops
  • You will experience periods of drowsiness, light sleep and then deeper sleep with no eye movement and decreased muscle activity.
  • People who awaken during this stage may feel groggy or disoriented for several minutes.
  • Children may experience bed-wetting, night terror or sleep walking during this stage.

REM or Rapid Eye Movement

  • is the active period of sleep
  • breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow
  • eyes move rapidly in various directions
  • heart rate and blood pressure rises
  • dreams occur during this stage

Ms. Barranco said research shows that adults of every age need a range of seven to nine hours of sleep each night to maintain optimal health.

“Teenagers need about 9.5 hours and infants generally require around 16 hours,” Ms. Barranco said. “Having the right amount of sleep and the right balance between the two stages is important for obtaining restful restorative sleep and for promoting processes such as learning, memory, mood and the ability to concentrate.”

Researchers have found that sleep loss may have harmful consequences for our immune and endocrine systems as well as contribute to serious illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stress, angerm, anxiety and depression, she said.

“Sleep deprivation also adversely affects cognition and motor performance,” she said, citing a study performed by Stanford University researchers that found that people getting only 3-5 hours of sleep per night for seven consecutive nights had significantly impaired alertness and motor performance more than someone who was legally intoxicated.

“It's not only the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep that we need to maintain a healthy life,” she said.

For more information on sleep and how it affects your health, log on to www.universityheatlh.org.

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