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Health benefits of quality sleep

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As Friday this week marks World Sleep Day, medical professionals have again reiterated the need for a good night sleep, which has been said to be vital to physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. They said the benefits of quality sleep should never be underestimated and getting proper rest on a regular basis should not just be a good idea, but is essential.

The experts explained that this is so because sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, as well as other vital functions in human life. While some of the functions and benefits derivable from good sleep may have deep evolutionary roots, the experts said its potential role in memory boost and healthy living is particularly relevant to the 21st century, where the line between work, personal life and other demanding responsibilities is often blurred.

To be able to achieve a good night sleep, certain steps have to be taken and certain rules observed. And if the individual is able to do this, he/she is guaranteed quality sleep, which will in turn make a noticeable difference in the quality of life. Consultant Family Physician, Dr. Chukwuma Ogunbor explained that the theme for this year’s world sleep day is: ‘Join sleep world, preserve rhythm to enjoy life.’

He said: “The theme is intended to emphasise the importance of circardian rhythm in healthy sleep. Circardian rhythm refers to cyclic events within the body such as rhythm, in hormones. Biological clocks within the body produce circardian rhythms but it is also affected by such environmental factors as sunlight.“Sound sleep is one of the three pillars of good health along with balanced diet and regular exercise. Sleep is a reversible state of reduced consciousness and activity characterised by a decreased responsiveness to external stimuli and assumption of a typical posture.

“All human beings and other higher mammals sleep at one time or other in given period of 24 hours. Sleep is really good for individuals’ health and those with adequate and regular sleep tend to have higher healthy lifespan and live longer than those with inadequate sleep. We sleep to feel more alert, energetic and happier and with quality sleep, we are able to function better.”

On the other hand, he said lack of adequate sleep could lead to a decline in attention, focus and concentration. In such a case, interpretation of events is poor and may increase morbidity, mortality, as well as shorten the lifespan.

“Sleep requirement varies with developmental stages of humans,” he explained. “Newborns require about 16 to 20 hours per day sleep. Children between one to four years require 11 to 12 hours sleep per day, while adolescents should sleep for nine hours per day. Adults require six to nine hours per day, with an average of eight hours to function well. Adults should strive to maintain a 1:2 ratio of sleep to wakefulness in 24 hours. It is advisable to take short naps during the day.

“An individual should get an average of eight hours of sleep in 24 hours. A cycle of sleep consists of two distinct phases: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep in healthy. Adult typically begins with NREM, which has three distinct stages.Ogunbor said people should observe sleep hygiene, which means going to bed at regular time. It is also important to avoid unnecessary distractions before going to bed. These include eating heavy meal just before going to bed and watching TV in the bedroom, among others.

“Medical effects of inadequate sleep include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and low lifespan to mention a few. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy and parasomnias.”Ogunbor explained that in insomnia, the individual is unable to fall asleep or there is disruption in the sleep pattern. Stress and environmental changes are common causes, for instance, jet lag. Chronic insomnia often results from poor sleep habits, caffeine at bedtime, too much alcohol, antidepressant, and psychiatric disorders.

“Parasomnias are a group of disorders that affect sleep habits. Common types include sleepwalking, night terrors, REM behaviour disorder (RBD) and sleep-eating disorder,” he said. “Narcolepsy is a condition that affects about one in 2000 people. It is characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness and occasional sudden onset of sleep.”

“Treatment for most sleep disorders is lifestyle modification, which include avoiding alcohol and caffeine before going to bed. There is also need for treatment of the underlying problems and behavioural techniques, such as sleep hygiene and cognitive therapy. Some medications, such as sedative may be prescribed, but usually not for too long to avoid tolerance and dependence.”

A Senior lecturer and consultant, Public Health Physician, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Department of Community health and Primary care, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Ezekiel Sofela Oridota, said a good sleep can help to improve concentration and productivity, and that sleep is important for various aspects of brain functions including body’s system.

“This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation. Good sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults,” he said.

Oridota stressed that poor sleep is linked to depression, such as mental health issues, which are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.He said: “It has been estimated that 90 percent of patients with depression complain of sleep quality. Poor sleep is even associated with increased risk of death by suicide. Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.

“Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. Restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes; all body systems, including chronic kidney diseases. This was then resolved after one week of increased sleep duration. Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than six hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”


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