Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle Director of Respiratory Care Leslie Albright, right, demonstrates with Taylor Tully of Columbus how to wear apparatus for an at-home obstructive sleep apnea test offered by the hospital. The physician-ordered test is a screening tool for one of the most common sleep disorders. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
December 30, 2017 9:58:52 PM
Michael knows he can do better. The up-and-coming staffer at a local manufacturing firm has an eye on making the management team before long. He's felt flat lately, though -- physically and mentally -- and he thinks he knows why. In a typical week, Michael is averaging five to five and one-half hours of sleep per night. Upping that to at least six, and then seven to eight hours, is a lifestyle change he's aiming for. And he thinks there is no better time to get serious about it than at the start of a new year.
Everyone knows the drill -- exercise, lose weight, eat healthy, learn a new skill, spend more time with family and friends. These are among the most common New Year's resolutions. But "more sleep" at the top of that list could up the chances of making headway on all the others. The well-rested are more likely to set both short- and long-term goals and plan steps to achieve them. From improved cognitive function to looking younger, from fewer conflicts to living longer, a full complement of regular sleep can be key to being a healthier and happier person.
Depression to obesity
In its inaugural Sleep Health Index conducted in 2014, the National Sleep Foundation reported that 45 percent of Americans said poor or insufficient sleep had affected daily activities at least once in the week prior to the study. Participants reported sleeping an average of seven hours and 36 minutes per night, on average going to bed at 10:55 p.m. and waking at 6:38 a.m. on workdays and sleeping roughly 40 minutes longer on non-workdays or weekends. But despite the number of hours slept, 35 percent reported their sleep quality as "poor" or "only fair."
Deprivation of quality sleep can trigger a host of health concerns in both adults and children, said Lori Elmore-Staton, an assistant professor in the Mississippi State University School of Human Sciences. It impacts body weight, strokes, heart attacks, memory function, accident reaction times and higher levels of depression and anxiety.
"Researchers used to believe that sleep problems were a side effect of depression, but with long-term studies, it has been shown that too little sleep can change your brain chemistry and cause depression," Elmore-Staton said.
One sleep study by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showed that sleepers who get at least seven hours are generally more positive, have fewer bouts with depression and have better overall mental health than the unrested.
For those battling the scale, "Sleep is related to obesity," said Elmore-Staton. "If you don't get enough sleep, your body releases more hormones telling you that you're hungry, and it releases less hormones telling you that you're full. It thinks you need more energy because something is wrong."
The less sleep we get, the more likely we are to experience conflict, Elmore-Staton said.
"Lack of sleep may make us overreact to arguments that we may otherwise push aside as not worth our time and effort," she explained. " ... You may be in a more negative mood, but you may also perceive other people's behavior to be more negative.
" ... Even if only one person in the family is getting less sleep than needed, the entire family is impacted."
Leflore County Extension agent Jennifer Russell said couples sometimes unknowingly bring suffering to their marriages this way.
"As a golden rule, get the sleep that you need so that you do not take it out on your family. Sleep reaps benefits like more joy and laughter in the home," Russell said.
Russell and Elmore-Staton both recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults, but children can range from nine to 11, teenagers eight to 10, and infants as much as 12 to 15 hours daily.
Russell's top tip for making sleep a priority is to establish a family-wide bedtime and be consistent about maintaining it.
"You can dim the lights or set a timer for the television to turn off after a certain amount of time if you or your partner must have noise to fall asleep," she said. "You can also use earphones to block out noise."
Russell encourages parents to train their children to go to sleep at a certain time. One way to help that is by limiting liquid or sugar intake before bedtime.
"You have to find the methods that work for your household and stick with them. Routines make for a friendly, easy environment in the home," she said.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates at least 40 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea. Signs include loud snoring, abnormal breathing and excessive daytime sleepiness. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus now offers an at-home sleep test that allows a physician to determine if a patient suffers from it. The physician-ordered test, which is covered by most insurance, is simple to perform, said Leslie Albright, Baptist director of Respiratory Care.
"This at-home study is for those who have mild to moderate probability of sleep apnea. It is a screening tool for those who come in with common complaints of sleep-related symptoms," she explained. Patients with a high probability of the condition would be recommended for a more extensive sleep study in the hospital's sleep disorder center.
After using the equipment at home for a minimum four-hour sleep, patients return it to the hospital for evaluation by a certified sleep physician, such as Dr. John Boswell.
"We are learning more and more about the effect of sleep disorder breathing, particularly sleep apnea and especially its impact on other illnesses, such as diabetes control, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease," said Boswell. "We are discovering that there are many members of our community that are suffering from sleep disorder breathing that goes undiagnosed. (With this test) we hope to be able to increase our ability to pick up on some of those people."
For more information about sleep apnea or the at-home test, contact Albright at 662-244-2938 or 800-544-8762, ext. 2938.
A better you
For those not dealing with a diagnosed sleep disorder, but still below-par from lack of shut-eye, try adding "more sleep" to the resolutions. A regimen of rest could boost productivity, improve health, relationships and outlook. It may be the simplest, most inexpensive investment in self on the list going into the new year.
Editor's note: In addition to Baptist Memorial Hospital, Lindsay Pace of the MSU Extension Service contributed some information contained in this article.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.