By Jennifer Nelson
March 14 marks World Sleep Day, an annual celebration of sleep organized by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM) and a call to action to promote better sleep health worldwide. This year’s theme is, “Restful Sleep, Easy Breathing and a Healthy Body.”
Sleeping well is an essential ingredient to good health. Sleep disorders, sleep-related respiratory disturbances and loss of quality sleep not only lead to poor alertness, reduced concentration, decreased productivity and driving accidents, they also can contribute to other serious health problems.
“When you go to sleep at night, every organ wants to rest. The heart rate wants to be lowered and blood pressure wants to be lowered, but if you have to work so hard just to keep breathing, night after night it puts a stress on the heart,” said Dr. Lee Shangold, a sleep specialist at ENT Allergy Associates in Tarrytown, N.Y. “Untreated moderate and severe sleep apnea, for instance, are independent risk factors for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and stroke.” And adults with untreated moderate and severe apnea tend to have heart attacks and strokes 10 years younger than the general population, Shangold noted.
Globally, it’s estimated that 100 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with an overwhelming 80 percent undiagnosed.
World Sleep Day increases the awareness of sleep as a potent player not only in our daily activities but also our basic health and wellness. If you’re concerned you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, you can take an online sleep assessment to understand more about your risk.
When someone is capable of falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night, they tend to have an increase in mental and physical energy; a brighter, more positive outlook on life; a reduced risk of heart disease and colon cancer; less anxiety; more sexual energy; and improved family and work relationships.
If you’re serious about getting more quality shut eye, here ’s a better sleep to-do list to tackle on your own from Dr. Ross Levin, a New York-based sleep specialist:
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Give yourself at least an hour to wind down before going to bed.
- Disconnect from electronics and keep them out of the bedroom.
- Keep regular sleep/rise times within an hour day to day.
- Never cancel social/work obligations in anticipation of staying up late.
- Keep a sleep diary.
- Get morning sunlight.
- What you think about during the day affects how you sleep at night.
- Try not to obsess about your sleep – people who don’t sleep well think about sleep all day long. People without sleep problems just go to sleep.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about a sleep disorder.
For more information on World Sleep Day and tips to improve your sleep habits, as well as resources for those diagnosed with sleep apnea, visit Philips’ World Sleep Day website.