Halal Consumer - Issue 32 - page 11

Across all age groups, the percentage of adults receiving six
hours or less of sleep a night has increased dramatically from
1985 to 2006. Research has shown that the effects of sleep depri-
vation are harmful, and in some cases, permanent. Therefore, we
need to take our sleep habits more seriously and not just settle
for what we can get.
Why is sleep so important? Perhaps this is the first question that
needs to be answered. Sleep, as most people know, provides rest
for the body and allows us the energy needed to get through
our hectic days. It is necessary in order for our bodies to grow,
develop, and sort out information. According to the National
Sleep Foundation, throughout the night, our bodies go through
five sleep stages, the last of which is called REM sleep.
REM, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement, occurs several
times a night and after 90 minutes of non-REM sleep stages.
This is when our brains regenerate cell growth and file away
pieces of information that we acquire throughout the day, also
aiding in supporting our short-term and long-term memories.
REM, also known as the dream state, is when our energy levels
get replenished. Without REM, our brains would turn to mush.
This is why it is essential that an adult receives at least seven
hours of sleep a night: so that the REM sleep stage can occur at
least three or four times.
The other stages of sleep support immune system function;
muscle and skin regeneration; hormone release, which aids in
growth; and restoration of the body after a long day. Stages 3
and 4, which come right before REM, are the deepest and most
restorative stages of sleep. In order to have a healthy body
and mind, you must allot a generous amount of time for sleep.
Otherwise, the result can be catastrophic to your body.
Even short periods of sleep deprivation can cause uncomfort-
able consequences. Merrill Ken Galera, MD, Medical Director of
The Galera Center in Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois, explains that
although some studies have shown seven hours of sleep a night
is generally adequate, ultimately sufficient sleep depends on
the individual. The amount of sleep one should get depends on
what is needed for that individual to wake up rested and able to
perform at their desired level. Therefore, sleep deprivation can
happen regardless of a particular amount of sleep.
“Any level of non-restful sleep is likely a symptom of sleep
deprivation,” Galera states. “Depending on the overall amount
of sleep deprivation, a reduction of even an hour of sleep can
result in symptoms.” For example, if someone is mildly sleep
deprived at six hours of sleep a night, reducing that by only one
hour for one night is likely to cause effects of sleep deprivation.
However, if someone is getting adequate sleep overall and is
sleeping eight hours a night, reducing that sleep by one hour for
one night is unlikely to cause those effects. So, each individual
is responsible for determining how many hours of sleep they
need to function best.
Effects of sleep deprivation range from mild symptoms to more
severe ones. The most common effects include headaches, diz-
ziness, loss of balance, pain or discomfort, confusion, loss of
concentration, and of course, fatigue. Psychological effects range
from moodiness to anxiety to depression. So, if so many of us are
suffering from sleep deprivation, then why are we still not get-
ting enough sleep?
“There are multiple factors,” says Dr. Galera, who treats patients
with sleep disorders and troubles, “[for example] excessive elec-
tronic use such as TV, computers, cell phones; stimulating foods
such as caffeine and sugar; and lifestyles that promote an excess
of activity without sufficient downtime.” Of course other factors
can be stress, physical pain, or an underlying medical condition.
If you are having trouble sleeping over a long period of time, you
should see a doctor to exclude any possible medical conditions.
Likewise, if you are experiencing an excess of stress, depression,
or anxiety and are having trouble managing it on your own, you
should seek out the expertise of a therapist. You may find that
will help you sleep better over time.
Another reason many of us aren’t getting enough sleep is because
of the lack of value we attach to sleep. It is just as important as
food and oxygen. And many people think that they can “catch
up” on sleep over the weekend. But this isn’t one hundred percent
accurate. Although some research suggests that you can sleep a
little longer one day to make up for lack of sleep the day before,
this system cannot be sustained over a long period of time. “I
would say that taking the approach that ‘I can just make this up
later’ is probably not worth the potential long-term risks associated
with disrupted sleep and sleep deprivation,” says Lauren Nichols,
assistant professor of Clinical Psychology at the Adler School of
Professional Psychology. “Getting into a healthy sleep routine and
trying to maintain that routine is the best course of action.”
There are several habits to promote a healthy sleep routine that
you can implement into your lifestyle. These habits are known
as “sleep hygiene.” Having good sleep hygiene can make all
the difference in your quality of sleep, helping you wake up
refreshed and have a more energetic and productive day. “We
are so stimulated throughout the day that we often go from
doing to jumping right into bed, with no time to wind down,”
Nichols explains. “The literature on sleep hygiene emphasizes
the routine for winding down and preparing for bed.” This helps
prepare the body for sleep. The following are steps you can take
to gain optimal sleep hygiene:
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