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Get the scoop on shuteye on World Sleep Day

Get the scoop on shuteye on World Sleep Day

Comedian Steven Wright once joked that consciousness is that annoying time between naps.

Humorous for sure, but sleep is a serious medical topic. You spend a third of your life sleeping or trying to get to sleep. And the truth is a lot of us aren’t getting the quality sleep we should get to contribute to good health.

March 15 is World Sleep Day, so in honor of that restful observance, pull up a pillow and let’s talk shuteye and catching Z’s.

Benefits of sleep

According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep is as important for our good health as diet and exercise. The agency tells us not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders, ranging from heart disease and stroke to obesity and dementia.

Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Teens should get 8-10 hours, and for kids 6-12, it’s 9-12 hours.

You’re not busy when you’re sleeping, but your body is hard at work performing a bunch of tasks, such as cell repair, which contribute to your overall physical and mental health.

“Getting enough sleep is a life essential, just like food and water. Sleep nurtures our minds and immune systems.” Aileen Love, MD, LVHN

Sleep improves your mood, promotes good heart health and a healthy weight, helps regulate blood sugar, restores your immune system, helps manage stress and more. Not getting enough sleep increases your risk for obesity, heart disease and infections. The Sleep Foundation says a lack of sleep can hurt your ability to think clearly, form memories and learn. They say sleep-deprived people perform poorly in activities that require quick responses and attention to multiple tasks, such as driving.

“Getting enough sleep is a life essential, just like food and water. Sleep nurtures our minds and immune systems,” says Aileen Love, MD, a pulmonologist and critical care medicine doctor with Lehigh Valley Health Network who specializes in sleep medicine.

Sleep apnea

For millions of Americans, good sleep can be interrupted by a number of sleep disorders, and one of the most prominent is sleep apnea, when your breathing stops and starts as you sleep. Your oxygen level drops, and your brain wakes you up to start breathing again. But having that happen as many as 30 or more times an hour (severe sleep apnea) doesn’t make for the deep, restful sleep you need.

Symptoms include snoring, gasping for air when you sleep, morning headaches, awakening with a dry mouth and excessive sleepiness. The word apnea comes from the Greek word for breathless.

Did you know?

About 39 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). According to the Sleep Foundation, OSA affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, though the actual number is thought to be higher. That’s at least 12.5% of the world’s population.

OSA happens when your throat muscles relax and obstruct air’s ability to pass through to your lungs. You are more at risk for sleep apnea if you are overweight, male, have a family history of sleep apnea, or have small airways. Children with enlarged tonsils or adenoids may also develop it.

Men are more likely than women to have sleep apnea, but that gap closes for women after menopause. Overall, older adults also are more likely to have the condition.

“Smoking and alcohol use are big triggers for OSA,” Dr. Love says. Certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, also can be associated with OSA.

Your doctor may prescribe a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea and its severity.

The most popular treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to  keep your airway open while you sleep. Other changes also can help, including losing weight and changing your sleeping position.

If you can’t tolerate using a CPAP machine, there are other treatments, including the Inspire® sleep apnea system offered at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Inspire is an implantable device that works inside your body with your natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea. Using a small, hand-held remote control, you turn on Inspire before bed to deliver mild stimulation to key airway muscles. This allows your airway to open during sleep. When you wake up in the morning, you use the remote control to turn it off.

Tips for better sleep

The National Institutes of Health suggests the following to get the best night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and get up the same time each morning.
  • Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
  • Exercise daily (but not right before bedtime).
  • Limit the use of electronics before bed.
  • Relax before bedtime. A warm bath or reading might help.
  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
  • Avoid nicotine.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central.

Learn more

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