Sleep and Your Health

woman sleeping

Sleep expert Les Szekely, MD discusses why it’s important to get enough sleep.

Getting a good night's sleep can help you have a better day. It can also help keep you healthy.

Adequate sleep is an important component of overall health.

"Sleep is extremely important. If you don't get enough of it there are definite health consequences," says Les Szekely, MD, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist.

The average adult needs about 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Not just any sleep, mind you.

"It's important to get deep, quality, refreshing, restorative sleep," says Dr. Szekely.

But not everybody does. There are 88 sleep disorders, notes Dr. Szekely. They include everything from sleep apnea to chronic insomnia to circadian rhythm disorder. It's not uncommon to get a poor night's sleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 7 and 19 percent of adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day. Also, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic (ongoing) sleep disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are many distractions in today's world, where being busy, stressed out and not exactly leading the healthiest lifestyle can interfere with sleep. Interestingly enough, the average American 100 years ago slept about one hour more than people today, notes Dr. Szekely.

If you get the recommended 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep daily, you should "wake up and feel ready to conquer the day," says Dr. Szekely. "And you're not too tired during the day."

If you are continually sleepy during the day, you are not getting enough sleep.

A chronic lack of sleep can lead to a variety of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

Untreated sleep apnea, in particular, over time can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers.

Lack of sleep also affects worker productivity. It is estimated that undiagnosed sleep apnea costs the country $100 billion a year. Additional costs to society for related health problems, lost worker productivity and accidents make sleep disorders a serious public health concern, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Sleep is so important because several things happen to our minds and bodies during sleep. That's where the "restorative" part of a good night's sleep comes into play. The immune system is being restored during sleep, and memories are being stored.

There are several stages of sleep that a person should cycle through during a good night's sleep. Not going through certain of these stages could potentially lead to dementia and could have other cognitive effects, notes Dr. Szekely.

"Sleep in general is vital," he emphasizes.

So what can we do to try and get a good night's sleep?

"Go to bed on time," suggests Dr. Szekely. "And no late eating or drinking caffeine."

He suggests not eating three to four hours before going to bed. Also, don't exercise within four hours of going to bed. And avoid drinking alcohol late.

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, you can address the issue with your family doctor, or see a sleep specialist. Most disorders don't need a sleep study, says Dr. Szekely. But if a sleep study is warranted, some can be done at home and others in a sleep lab.

Remember, getting a good night's rest can do more than just help you have a good day – it can improve your quality of life.

Learn more about Doylestown Health's Sleep Center.

About Doylestown Health

Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 247 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.

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