How much sleep is necessary?
The exact amount varies from person to person. Most sleep experts believe you should get seven to eight hours a sleep a night. If you are getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night, you may be compromising your health and welfare.
What causes sleep disorders?
Some sleep disturbances may be linked to biological changes associated with aging or certain physical diseases, especially those that cause pain. Others may be associated with a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Poor sleep may also stem from habits such as napping too long or late in the day, or from doing shift work. Some people simply don’t give themselves enough time to get adequate sleep.
What problems can lack of sleep cause?
Disorders of sleeping and waking interfere with quality of life and personal health. Sleep is essential to physical, emotional and mental health. Sleep also seems to play a role in helping the body recover from illness and injury. Inadequate sleep over a period of time is associated with:
- Heart disease
- Problems with memory, learning, logical reasoning and calculation
When does lack of sleep become a problem?
Talk to your doctor if you experience:
- Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying awake
You may not be getting enough sleep, or enough good quality sleep, if you are experiencing:
- Trouble staying alert during boring or monotonous activities
- Tendency to be unreasonably irritable with co-workers, family or friends
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering facts
What is a sleep study?
A sleep study, or polysomnogram, combines several painless, no-risk tests which are recorded while you sleep. These tests may include:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain wave activity
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) to record heart rate and rhythm
- Electro-oculogram (EOG) to record eye movements during different phases of sleep
- Electromyogram (EMG) to record muscle activity in the face and/or legs
- Nasal airflow sensor to record breathing rates and patterns
- Oximetry to measure oxygen levels in the blood
- Snore microphone
- Video to record body positioning and movement
Is it normal to sleep less when you get older?
You do not need any less sleep when you get older; however, sleep disturbances seem to be more common among older men and women. Tests of rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep show that older people get less deep sleep over time. As people get older, they awaken from sleep more easily. Women may first notice this during menopause.
How can I get a good night’s rest?
You can make several lifestyle changes to help improve your sleep. These may include:
- Keeping a regular sleep schedule, with a consistent wake-up time
- Making your bedroom quiet, dark and cool, with a comfortable bed
- Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
- Eating healthy meals to help prevent daytime energy deficits
- Exercising regularly for 30 minutes a day
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages before going to bed
- Cutting down on caffeine and other stimulating substances
- Limiting naps to no more than 30 minutes in the early afternoon
- Learning techniques to manage anxiety and stress
- You may also want to consider bariatric (weight loss) surgery, which has been shown to eliminate sleep apnea