By Dr. Robert Brown;
Here are just a few of the facts about sleep debt. Yes, loss of sleep accumulates causing a debt. Recent research has found that sleeping 6 hours a night over a two-week period results in reaction times equivalent to a 0.1% blood alcohol level.
Scientists at the University of Bristol studied the effects of jet lag on airline crews and found that lack of sleep can shrink the brain resulting in memory problems and increased level of Cortisol (nicknamed the death hormone).
A 2011 study found that lack of sleep reduces testosterone production in men and, in women significantly decreases libido. Research at Berkeley found that sleep debt can influence the brain to experience anxiety-producing activity. It also accelerates the aging of the skin.
The immune system is rebuilt during sleep. Work at the Mayo Clinic found decreased immune responses, which can lead to chronic diseases. Another fact we have known about for some time is that sleep debt causes weight gain especially belly fat.
Although there are many more problems associated with sleep debt, there is one more I want to emphasize. During deep sleep the glymphatic system is 10 times more active. The purpose of this system is to flush the brain of the toxins that build up during the day. Within the cellular make up of the brain are non-neurological cells called glial cells. While sleeping, these cells shrink allowing more gaps in the brain tissue, thus allowing more fluid to flow between the cells, washing toxins away. The absence of this function leads to toxic build up which is believed to be a factor causing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, it has been established in medical research that if one has untreated obstructive sleep apnea, (OSA), the chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease increase by 200%, not to mention cancer and heart disease, the incidence of which increases even more.
Not only do we need 7-9 hours of sleep, but it must be quality sleep. Because of many factors like artificial lighting, long work hours, late athletic practice, television and electronic devices as well as the side effects of some drugs, getting quality sleep is becoming next to impossible for many people. In most cases lifestyle changes are necessary if not mandatory for the sake of your physical and mental health.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself that can help you determine whether you have a sleep problem.
- Is your performance at work or school less than you like?
- Do you often feel annoyed, grumpy or depressed?
- How quickly do you fall asleep?
- Do you have trouble waking up and, once up, are you groggy?
We just get one chance to enjoy life. Enjoying a wonderful, long lasting and fulfilling life requires commitment and dedication.
Dr. Robert J. Brown of advanced Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Center can be reached at (925) 837-8048. You can also visit his website at www.aodtc.com