To Your Health
May, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 05)
By Kevin M. Wong, DC
One of the aspects of human life that has remained constant throughout our existence is the need for sleep. Sleep is a behavioral state that is a natural part of life. We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, but amazingly enough, people generally know very little about the importance of this essential activity, and too many don't get enough of it on a regular basis.
The Consequences of Poor Sleep Sleep problems are actually extremely common in our society, and they can have serious consequences. There are more than 70 known sleep disorders; among those, sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome are the most common. Many people who suffer from these sleep disorders are unaware anything is wrong, as they have not been diagnosed or treated for their condition. Sleep problems also can lead to difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, loss of energy, fatigue and emotional instability, and in the longer term, can elevate your risk of serious health conditions including high blood pressure and heart attack. And poor sleeping can cause difficulties with learning, memory, thinking and feelings, which may lead to poor school and work performance. Furthermore, problem sleepiness can manifest as drowsy driving or workplace accidents and errors. Lifestyle factors and sleep disorders can cause problems with sleeping.
Lifestyle factors include not getting enough sleep, having an irregular sleep schedule, and using alcohol or certain medications. Sleep problems could also be caused, at least in part, by stress or anxiety about work, family and finances.
Sleep: An Essential Activity Sleep is not just something to fill time when a person is inactive; it is a required activity for normal body and brain functioning. We all recognize and feel the need to sleep. After sleeping, we recognize changes that have occurred, as we feel rested and more alert. In short, sleep is absolutely required for our survival.
We all understand the basic importance of sleep: to regenerate the mind and the body, and give it the rest it needs to function properly. Although each person varies in the amount of sleep they require, the average amount should be at least 6-7 hours per night. There are multiple "stages" of sleep, but in general, there are two major sleep cycles, with the second cycle being of particular importance. This second cycle, known as REM (rapid eye movement), is the period of deep, restful sleep. It is also known as the dream phase, and it is very essential to getting enough rest.