Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sleep Disturbance and Your Health

The sleep disorders are organized into four major sections according to presumed etiology. Primary Sleep Disorders are those in which none of the etiologies listed below (i.e., another mental disorder, a general medical condition, or a substance) is responsible. Primary Sleep Disorders are presumed to arise from endogenous abnormalities in sleep-wake generating or timing mechanisms, often complicated by conditioning factors. Primary Sleep Disorders in turn are subdivided into Dyssomnias (characterized by abnormalities in the amount, quality, or timing of sleep) and Parasomnias (characterized by abnormal behavioral or physiological events occurring in association with sleep, specific sleep stages, or sleep-wake transitions).

In the short term the effect to your health are:

* Decreased Performance and Alertness: Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.

* Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair your memory and your cognitive ability -- your ability to think and process information.

* Stress Relationships: Disruption of a bed partner's sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause significant problems for the relationship (for example, separate bedrooms, conflicts, moodiness, etc.).

* Poor Quality of Life: You might, for example, be unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the movies, seeing your child in a school play, or watching a favorite TV show.

* Occupational Injury: Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.

* Automobile Injury: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

The body senses sleep loss as a “stress-inducing” state, which raises levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and other similar body transmitters. These hormones are what regulate the body’s blood pressure and when these levels are chronically high that may cause blood pressure to be harder to control. Of course, high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. In addition, the ability to control sugar levels, which give our body its necessary fuel to function, seems impaired in people who are have chronic sleep loss. This can lead to diabetes, which also increases the risk of heart disease. We also recognize that a protein in the body called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, which has been linked to increased risk of heart attack is elevated in patients who are not getting enough sleep. Collectively, it seems that chronic sleep deprivation will probably raise one’s risk of heart disease over the course of a lifetime.

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