Daylight saving time has arrived. But losing sleep as we “spring forward” doesn’t mean your health should suffer. Instead, prioritize your sleep to improve health and well-being. Sleep Awareness Week, March 14-20, is the perfect time to learn about the benefits of optimal sleep and how sleep affects health, well-being and safety from the experts at UT Health San Antonio.
How much sleep is enough?
While infants, children and teenagers require substantially more sleep than adults, it is widely agreed that adults 18 to 64 should sleep seven to nine hours each night on a regular basis for optimal sleep health. For those 65 years of age and older, seven to eight hours is recommended. Unfortunately, that is not met by nearly 30% of US adults, who report sleeping six or fewer hours per day. Compliance is even lower among younger adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with low socioeconomic status.
“Poor sleep duration affects many people and can have many causes, from restless leg syndrome to obstructive sleep apnea, and sometimes sleeping trouble has more than one cause,” said Ramon Cancino, MD, director of primary care at UT Health Physicians. “Primary care is the best first stop for people who are experiencing sleeping trouble because the physician can start the evaluation process, educate and recommend actions to improve a patient’s sleep hygiene.”
In addition, when appropriate, the UT Health Physicians Primary Care team works directly with specially trained behavioral health consultants, who work in partnership with primary care physicians on helping patients improve their sleep.
How does sleep affect health and well-being?
While adequate sleep is essential for having satisfactory energy levels, it’s critical for heart health as well. During sleep the body repairs itself, so not getting enough sleep over time can lead to serious health problems. Research shows that adults who consistently sleep less than seven hours each night are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
“Adequate sleep plays a key role in the health of the cardiovascular system,” said Auroa Badin, MD, heart rhythm cardiologist at UT Health San Antonio. “Sleep deprivation, even for a single night, increases the level of several stress hormones and promotes inflammation, which are important factors in cardiovascular disease.” Dr. Badin also emphasizes the importance of adequate, high quality sleep, in no excess. “It is important to note that excessive long sleep may also have a negative effect—researchers found a higher amount of calcium buildup in the artery walls in patients with very long sleep hours, which generally indicate cardiovascular disease.”
Another reason for insufficient sleep is nocturia—waking up at night to urinate. Not only can nocturia have a negative impact on quality of sleep, such as decreased time of rapid eye movement (REM) and restorative sleep, but it is also associated with greater risk of falls and fractures. Nocturia is also common in patients with sleep disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea.
“Nocturia can cause sleep fragmentation, which in return may cause risk of daytime issues such as somnolence, decreased productivity and overall decreased quality of life,” said Monica Chapman, PA-C, with UT Health Urology. “For many, sleep loss from nocturia even has profound effects on daily life, such as employment loss.”
Take action for your sleep health
People experiencing sleep problems are encouraged to speak with a doctor. The providers at UT Health Physicians are trained in a wide range of areas to address the causes of insufficient sleep, including board-certified sleep specialists who provide customized sleep treatment plans to optimize health and well-being. Call UT Health Physicians at 210-450-9000 to make an appointment, or visit https://www.uthscsa.edu/patient-care/physicians/make-appointment.