The United States is a sleep-deprived nation. It shows in our health as well as how we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a serious public health issue, and one in three adults don't get enough sleep. Our ancestors did not have this issue, but the world has changed.
Unnatural light sources affect our natural biorhythms. Processed foods and caffeine can alter energy levels. The need to connect to social media, play online games, and other computer or phone-related activities can keep you in a state of perpetual excitement. It's time to identify these and other sleep-altering factors and explore solutions to get your sleep cycle back on track.
Why You Need Sleep
Sleep is as crucial to your well-being as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and low stress levels. When you're asleep, your body goes into a "repair and restore" mode. Without enough sleep, your ability to heal and regenerate is significantly impaired. A poor sleep environment can lead to sleep deprivation which, aside from drowsiness, can contribute to heart disease, anxiety, depression, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, increased alcohol use, and accidental injuries.
The Importance of Sleep for Mental Health
Sleep is essential for your brain and mental wellness. Danish researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester discovered the brain's detoxification center. She named it the glymphatic system because it clears waste from the brain the way the lymphatic system clears waste from the body.
Nedergaard and her team found that the glymphatic system is most active during sleep. The team also found that this system functions best during natural sleep, not under the influence of sleeping medications. So while a sleeping pill may put you to sleep, you will not experience the same benefits as if you fell asleep naturally.
What Is Insomnia?
If you regularly have difficulty falling or staying asleep, you may have a common sleep disorder known as insomnia. Many people with this condition feel like they never sleep at all. There are two main types of insomnia: secondary and primary. Although primary insomnia has no external cause and its origin is difficult to determine, secondary insomnia is caused by health issues such as asthma or an overactive thyroid.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea, or the more common variation called obstructive sleep apnea, is a condition that causes you to stop breathing or maintain shallow breathing while you sleep. A narrow neck, large tongue, or large tonsils are some causes of this condition. Sleeping on your back can also contribute to or exacerbate the inability to breathe properly. Snoring and snorting are typical symptoms of this condition. Snoring, however, is not always a sign of sleep apnea. People with this condition can stop breathing for as little as 30 seconds, or as long as a few minutes. These stop-and-start breathing patterns disrupt a good night's sleep and cause drowsiness during the day. Sleep apnea is linked to health conditions, including cardiovascular issues.
Sometimes, your brain won't send signals to your throat muscles. This can keep you from temporarily breathing, and is referred to as central sleep apnea. If you wake up repeatedly during the night, experience constant drowsiness during the day, or your partner complains of your snoring or snorting during sleep, it may be time to see your healthcare practitioner.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Your adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit above your kidneys. The adrenal glands help regulate a variety of bodily functions, including hormone balance, the sleep-wake cycle, and the fight-or-flight response.