By Liliya Slutsker, MD
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP TO YOUR HEALTH
Youth suicide rates have been steadily rising over the past few years. Where do the problems start? And how do they develop further in life? 9.8% of children are diagnosed with ADHD, 8.9% with a behavior problem, then depression, and when we get older many people develop dementia (over 6 million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s).
And our solution is generally medication. We treat these problems with
antidepressants, but suicide rates are still rising. We are working hard to develop treatment for Alzheimer’s, but so far, all attempts have been futile. We are gaining weight, getting more sedentary, more depressed, and the only joy for some people is on social media: YouTube, FB, IG, REELS, or Tik-Tok.
I do not propose a cure, but note that it is worth looking at one of the reasonable plausible causes: sleep deprivation.
Evolution worked hard for 3.6 million years selecting the best physiologic mechanism of preserving our mental capacity, and devoting 1/3 of our lifetime to nurture, rest and clean up our brain. Sleep was sacred: no hunting, no eating, no mating.
But then came Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb and it was the start in the decline of sleep time and quality. And now with TV and cellphones, the genie is out of the bottle.
When you see a toddler throwing a tantrum on the Walmart floor, and his (or her) mom, says: Oh, he (or she) missed his nap. She knows that it’s important to guard his sleep like a hawk! But how are we protecting our sleep?
There is was a study assessing changes in admission for AMI (Acute Myocardial Infarction) undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in BCBS of Michigan Cardiovascular Consortium data base for the dates following the four spring and three fall daylight savings time changes between March 2010 and September 2013. After adjustment for trend and seasonal effects, the Monday following spring time changes was associated with a 24% increase in daily AMI counts and the Tuesday following the fall changes was conversely associated with a 21% reduction.
Not only was AMI affected, but noted increase in: car accidents, suicide attempts, harsher sentences hand out by Federal judges on Monday after losing an hour of sleep.
The effects of sleep deprivation were document in “Science alert”: In 1965, a 16-year old high school student named Randy Gardner stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes. As the TED Talk video reports, after just two days of zero sleep, Gardner’s eyes struggled to remain focused, he showed some signs of ataxia – an inability to repeat simple tongue twisters – and he found it difficult to identify objects based purely on touch. According to researcher John J. Ross of the US Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit, who was responsible for monitoring the effects of Gardner’s experiment, by day three, he became moody and uncoordinated, and by day five he started hallucinating.
· The fact is that decreased, or fragmented sleep predisposes us to increased blood pressure;
· Gaining weight because we are eating worse food;
· Men who sleep 5-6 hrs. have a testosterone levels of men 10 years older and have fewer sperm;
· Women who sleep 5-6 hrs. also have 30% higher rate of abdominal menstrual cycles.
“When you fight biology, and sleep is one of the most conserved behaviors across all living organisms that we’ve observed, when you fight that kind of innate hard grained biology, you normally lose. And the way that you know that you’ve lost, is disease and sickness, either acute or chronic. At some point a lack of sleep will get you. “Matthew Walker, Ph.D.
And what we can do about it? Should we be waking up in the middle of the night to check our phones like 80% of children do? Or should we we try to get some sleep and clean our brain of all toxic substances accumulated while we were awake and using our brain in full capacity?
One way to help our children sleep better is to have all electronic devices locked in a box during the night (or at least kept out of their room), cooling their bedroom, and maintaining a cool, quiet, and dark environment to help them fall and stay in a sleep for 8 hours. I think, it worth of trying!
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