Check Your Body in for a ‘Tune-Up’ Every Night
Sleep Deprivation Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
By Cora Ciaramello
L.E., C.P.E., LMT Aesthetician
Vacations, family barbecues, fire pits and s’mores, playing ‘catch up’ with friends, longer days, shorter nights … yes, the past several months have been busy. We’ve probably neglected a thing or two: a weed here and there; fixing an annoying squeaky door, perhaps; some yard clean-up.
Hopefully, we haven’t neglected a healthy diet (considering the abundance of seasonal fruits and veggies) or, especially, neglected necessary amounts of sleep.
Sometimes life’s juggling act can result in sleep deprivation and the false assumption that we can ‘catch up’ on needed sleep during a rainy day or a lazy weekend.
Not so! Catching up on sleep is a total myth. Just one look in the mirror after a day or two of sleep deprivation and you can see the results. It shows. And there is no such miracle cure like “catching up” that will mitigate the damage.
Dr. James O’Brien, a sleep and sleep disorders specialist says that sleep is “a necessity for optimal functioning.” Adequate, regular sleep is crucial for our bodies to regenerate and repair.
Dr. Rochelle Goldberg, a sleep and critical care specialist, concurs, explaining that “During sleep, the brain catalogues the previous day’s experiences, primes memory, and triggers release of hormones regulating energy, mood, and mental acuity.
To complete its work,” Dr. Goldberg notes, “the brain needs seven to eight hours of sleep.” She adds that when a body gets less, “concentration, creativity, mood regulation and productivity all take a hit.”
The medical specialists further explain that in addition to cognitive losses like memory, sleep deprivation can also result in health problems including obesity, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Shhhhhh … Body at Work
Once we understand how sleep “works” to restore our bodies during four separate stages, we can better understand how important it is.
“During the course of an eight-hour sleep period, a healthy sleeper should cycle through the various sleep stages every 90 minutes or so,” according to sleep disorder expert, Tracy R. Nasca.
“Healthy sleep is divided into four-stage cycles. As we progress through stages one and two, we become increasingly unplugged from the world until we reach the deep sleep that happens in stage three,” she writes.
“In deep sleep,” Nasca continues, “both brain and body activity drop to their lowest point during the cycle, and blood is redirected from the brain to muscles.”
The fourth and final stage is named for the rapid eye movement (REM) that is its defining characteristic. Our brains become busily active in REM sleep, too, even more so than when we are awake. Dreaming happens during this stage, she explains.
In a full night’s sleep, we experience three or four such cycles. When we deprive ourselves of a full night’s sleep, we deprive our body of one or more of these vital cycles necessary for body repair and maintenance.
“Sleep is not a luxury,” notes Dr. O’Brien, “It’s a necessity for optimal functioning.”
And there is just no such thing as ‘catching’ up on a necessity.
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