SLEEP AMONG BEST MEDICINE AGAINST FLU
TROY - People don’t even need to leave their homes to take advantage of one of the best preventive measures against colds and flu.
Adequate sleep plays a key role in people’s daily health, and ability to ward off illness such as the flu, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
“Studies show that sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on immune function, and chronic sleep loss can increase an individual’s vulnerability to infectious diseases,” the foundation said in a recent call for people to make sure they are getting enough sleep. Elaine Walker, coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Upper Valley Medical Center, said sleep deprivation is not uncommon in today’s 24-7 society.
People work various shifts, kids are busy with multiple activities, many schools start earlier than in the past and the Internet, cell phones and texting allow people to be in touch constantly.
“Sleep affects so many parts of your life that people don’t think about. They think, ‘Well, I’m just going to be tired.’ They don’t think about the effects on their immune system, which right now is awfully important with the H1N1 flu. Your immune system doesn’t function as well as it should if you don’t get enough sleep,” said Jerry McGlothen, UVMC director of cardiopulmonary services, including the Sleep Disorders Center.
While studies show adults need between 6 ½ and 8 hours of sleep a night, many Americans get less than five hours of sleep on a regular basis, McGlothen said.
Teen-agers need more, at up to nine or 10 hours. “I know parents have always been a little upset with their teenagers who want to sleep all of the time, but the facts are teenagers need more sleep than anyone else. They are growing,” McGlothen said.
People experience four stages of sleep from light wakefulness as they are going to sleep, followed by stage two sleep, then delta and, finally, Rapid Eye Movement sleep, Walker said. The body recharges and heals during the delta stage of sleep, while the brain recharges during REM sleep.
If people are not receiving adequate periods of delta and REM sleep, they will be sleep deprived and experience the consequences.
Psychologically, poor sleep affects one’s mood, activity and ability to interact positively with others, McGlothen said. Often those suffering sleep problems are short tempered and don’t want to deal with details.
To help identify sleep-related problems the UVMC sleep lab will test those ages 5 and up in its four-bed center located on the UVMC campus.
The testing room has more of a hotel-room look versus the traditional hospital patient room. Select Comfort beds are used to accommodate each person’s sleeping preferences, Walker said.
McGlothen said the center receives a number of sleep study referrals from cardiologists and for patients with blood pressure problems. Among most frequently identified problems is sleep apnea in which sleep is frequently disrupted, though the sleeper may not be aware of that disruption.
For many with sleep apnea, the answer is wearing a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, mask, McGlothen said. Once the patient adapts to using the mask, most report “fantastic” results, he said, adding machines today are much quieter and easier to use than in the past.
For those with less serious sleep problems, doing what mother told them for years is helpful, McGlothen said. Among mother’s admonitions that work are going to bed at the same time and not eating a big meal before bedtime.
During the H1N1 season, adequate sleep is even more important, McGlothen said, because sleep is restorative. “Few things keep your immune system in good shape as much as a good diet, good sleep and exercise. That keeps your immune system strong,” he said. “Right now, everyone needs every advantage they can get to keep their immune system as strong as they can.”
In addition to the flu season, the holiday season has arrived. For many people, that means parties, later hours, more shopping and added stress.
“All of those activities throw more people together, so the spread of H1N1 might be higher,” McGlothen said. “It becomes even more important to make sure you are eating a good diet and getting a good night’s sleep to keep your immune system as strong as you can. That is the best thing you have going for you, other than an H1N1 vaccine.”
More information on the UVMC Sleep Disorders Center is available by calling (937) 440-7168 or by visiting the National Sleep Foundation.
HEALTHY SLEEP TIPS
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath and then reading a book or listening to soothing music
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Use your bedroom for sleep, not watching TV or working
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime
- Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. It can keep you awake
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime
(Source: National Sleep Foundation)
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