World Sleep Day: March 19 – What?! Another PANDEMIC??

by Dr. Melissa Hertler,Otolaryngologist(Ear, Nose and Throat) Specialist at SageWest Health Care

Long before COVID-19, sleep problems were a global epidemic that threatened health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being.

Three elements of good quality sleep are:

  • Duration: The length of sleep should be sufficient for the sleeper to be rested and alert the following day.
  • Continuity: Sleep periods should be seamless without fragmentation.
  • Depth: Sleep should be deep enough to be restorative.

Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is known to have a significant negative impact on our health. Short term effects of poor-quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning. Longer term effects of poor-quality sleep or sleep deprivation have been associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems and even some cancers. Lack of sleep is related to many psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Adequate good quality sleep is crucial to ensure good health and quality of life.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is very prevalent, yet under-recognized. A recent population study estimated that 17% of men and 9% of women in the United States may suffer from OSA. Sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and may lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

OSA is an independent risk factor for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular ailments. Untreated sleep apnea may lead to heart disease, stroke, and dementia. In children, sleep apnea is typically associated with large tonsils and adenoids, and may be related to neuropsychological and behavioral disturbances, as well as learning difficulties in school. Both adults and children should be evaluated if sleep apnea is suspected, because there are effective treatments available. Consider discussing sleep issues with your primary care provider or Otolaryngologist (ENT) physician so we can help you be at your best.

According to the World Sleep Society, the following 10 steps are recommended to achieve healthy sleep:

  1. Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
  2. If you are in the habit of taking a nap, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Use comfortable bedding.
  8. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
  9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  10. Reserve the bed for sleep. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.

If you would like to speak to a provider about your sleep health, SageWest Health Care can help. Call 332.4420 or 856.4161 or visit the “Find a Doctor/Provider” tab at SageWestHealthCare.com to find a primary care or Otolaryngology provider to schedule an appointment.