Dec 30, 2021 by PrimeClean
Having a good night's sleep is a foundation for a healthy life. Often overlooked, sleep is a part of our existence and as important as any other awaken activity in our lives. Quality sleep doesn't just include (mandatory) 6 to 8 hours of sleep, but uninterrupted sleep (consciously or unconsciously). Patients diagnosed with sleep apnea know too well the difference between sleep and quality sleep… So, why is important that we do all we can to make our sleeping conditions as perfect as possible?
Sleep accounts for one-quarter to one-third of the human lifespan! It is an important and even critical part of our lives. But, what is sleep? Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up – as defined by the Sleep Foundation. The definition offered by Wikipedia gives a bit wider explanation of what sleep is: Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity, and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and reduced interactions with surroundings. It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, but more reactive than a coma or disorders of consciousness, with sleep displaying different, active brain patterns. In general, we can say that there is no one and only definition of sleep, but all more-less explain the process similarly as the process of inhibited sensor activity and lower consciousness level, which helps the body regenerate and rest.
Even more important is sleep during the earlier stages of life, from infancy to adolescence! Most physical development, rest, and "regeneration" are during the sleep process. According to Sleep Foundation, sleep is an essential building block for a child's mental and physical health.
“Sleep is a period during which the brain is engaged in a number of activities necessary to life — which are closely linked to quality of life," says Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D. This interpretation of sleep expert Mark Wu gives us the direct link to the topic of sleep quality and its influence on the quality of life and health…
Just sleeping 7 or even 9 hours per night is not necessarily (good) enough for the body to rest and regenerate!
The complete sleep process can be divided into 2 parts: non-REM (NREM) part and the REM part. REM is the abbreviation of the term Rapid Eye Movement, which is, as the name describes, the process of eyeball movement during the final phase of sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) further separates the NREM part of sleep into three stages: N1, N2, and N3 (N1 stage is the light sleep, a transition between wakefulness and sleep; N2 stage is the deeper sleep as heart rate and breathing rates continue slowing down and the muscles become more relaxed; N3 stage is the deep sleep stage, and in this stage heartbeat, muscle relaxation, breathing, and other physiological processes are at their lowest). N3 stage is the most important in the sleep cycle (although up until recently, it was considered that the REM part is the most important, but recent research proved differently). If any stage or part of the sleep cycle is missing, the whole quality sleep process fails.
Lack of quality sleep can cause serious health issues, influence a person's social life, mental health condition. Lack of sleep significantly increases the risk for several illnesses:
Sleeping while under stress-causing conditions will rarely lead to a good night's sleep. Sleep which is often interrupted, or under strong outside stimulants (constant loud sound, sudden loud sounds, strong lights, too hot or too cold temperature level, uncomfortable bed…), bad pre-sleep habits (being active before sleep, watching phone…), and some medical conditions or sleep disorders, will usually produce a sleep which cannot be considered as a “quality sleep”.
Besides the things we can directly influence and correct with some life habit or environment changes, an obstacle to a good night sleep might be some of the sleep disorders. Doctors have described more than 70 sleep disorders, most of which can be managed effectively once they are correctly diagnosed. Some of the 3 most common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome.
Insomnia is a general term for difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. This problem can result from many other factors (jet lag, stress, diet…) and if diagnosed correctly it can be managed effectively. For more serious cases of long-term insomnia, therapy must be implemented since insomnia in any case almost always affects performance and well-being the next day. It is estimated that around 60 million Americans experience insomnia every year. Insomnia is, in most cases, treated with sleeping pills or by changing daily or sleeping habits.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep occur more often than normal (as defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). In the majority of cases, when talking about sleep apnea, it is the case of Obstructive sleep apnea. Even though patients with undiagnosed (or diagnosed but untreated) sleep apnea will often spend an entire night sleeping, due to mentioned breathing pauses and loud snoring, they almost always have very bad sleep quality. Breathing pause in sleep apnea can be from 10 seconds and up to a minute. Once the brain “feels” there is not enough oxygen to function properly, it responds by awakening the person. This awakening is short-term and as soon as airways are opened, a person resumes snoring. This cycle can be repeated tens or even hundreds of times during one-night sleep. Sleep apnea, once diagnosed, requires therapy. The therapy for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. CPAP device and accessories (CPAP Cleaner, CPAP Cleaning Supplies, CPAP headgear strap covers…) are used to aid in keeping the airways open, by pushing the pressurized air into the patient's airways via tubing and face mask.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a nervous system condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move legs. It can begin at any age and generally worsens with aging. The RLS is typically active in the evening and during the nighttime while sitting or lying down and thus it is considered a sleep disorder. In most cases, there's no known or specific cause for RLS. Researchers suspect the condition may be caused by an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which sends messages to control muscle movement. There’s no cure for RLS itself. However, some treatments can help with it, and in a way secure a good night’s sleep (massage, exercise, food supplements such as iron, changing daily and sleeping habits…depending on the symptoms, treatment will be adjusted to it).
Investments in sleep science research are expanding and attracting more attention from the scientific community. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) lead or sponsors many studies and clinical trials aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders. Researchers and medical doctors realized the importance of good, quality night sleep on the general quality of life and productiveness. Obesity, depression, heart and cardiovascular issues, anxiety, increased inflammatory processes, seizures in some types of epilepsy, diabetes… Sleep deprivation is a serious problem and it must be treated with a serious approach.
Check out American Sleep Association's tips for getting a good night's sleep here.