The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has been in the news mostly because of its botched launch of Obamacare, has now placed the issue of sleep forefront on its list of important health concerns.
Spurred by the National Geographic documentary “Sleepless in America,” HHS has published an article titled “Why Is Sleep Important?” by Michael Twery, PhD, director, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Dr. Twery writes:
The idea of “sleep” as a period when the brain simply shuts down has been replaced by an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness is necessary for the biological function in every organ. Not only does this daily “circadian” rhythm play an important role in learning and the filtering of memories in brain, but it also serves to regulate the energy level of most all cells. Shortages of cellular energy eventually wear down natural defenses through oxidative stress and abnormalities in protein processing increasing the risk of disease.
This summary is reminiscent of many blog posts here at The Snoring Center. Sleep is basically too important to be shrugged off or categorized as “normal” when it’s clearly not so. If you’re sleeping less than seven hours a night on a regular basis, you’re not experiencing “normal” sleep patterns.
What to do if your sleep isn’t normal? Start with good sleep hygiene habits.
Here are five tips to help improve the quality of your sleep:
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark
- Put away/turn off all electronic devices while preparing for bedtime
- Stick to a regular bedtime and wake time every day, even on weekends
- Stop drinking caffeine by the early afternoon and avoid large late-night meals
- Skip the late-afternoon nap, as it can make it harder to sleep at bedtime
These tips from HHS and Dr. Twery are solid sleep hygiene considerations. If after following them, you still experience sleep problems, seek professional help immediately. As Dr. Twery and HHS note, sleep and health are too intertwined to take lightly or shrug off as “normal” or “inescapable” because of the demands of daily living in America.