Monday, November 26th, 2012
With no snoozzzzze, you lose
By Shelley Grieshop
It's been a month since Jenelle Gross enjoyed more than four hours of sleep a night.
Since giving birth to Jenessa Elizabeth in October, a good night's sleep has become a luxury. When she's not doting on her newborn, she's scrambling to keep up with her two sons, T.J., 2, and Rudi, 6.
"I can't really take a nap. Rudi goes to school, but T.J. is here with me all day," she said with a sigh.
Sleep deprivation occurs when a person is robbed of adequate sleep, as opposed to being unable to sleep. It's a growing problem in America and can lead to a wide variety of health problems - physical and mental, experts say.
Gina Reynolds, manager of the Grand Lake Sleep Center in St. Marys, said adults on average need seven to eight hours of good quality sleep per night to be fully rested.
"However, every person is different; some need more and some less," she said.
More than 20 percent of adults get less than six hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If a person's internal clock isn't properly reset each day, he or she risks fatigue, weakened immune systems, increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, poor work performance, auto accidents, relationship problems, anger and depression, the NSF says.
Gross said her lack of shut-eye makes it difficult at times to tolerate her active little boys.
"Sometimes I don't feel like a great mom. My patience runs thin," she said.
She tries to avoid caffeine because she's breastfeeding her new baby but admitted to downing a few cups of joe for a quick pick-me-up. She's increased her vitamin intake to stay healthy and readily accepts help from husband, Jeremy, and others, she said.
"I have an awesome support system in my family and friends," she said.
The only real cure is catching more Zs, according to Dr. Sarat Kuchipudi, medical director at the St. Marys sleep center.
"Sleep deprivation is almost like a big debt from the bank through credit cards. You need to recoup and pay the sleep debt back in a quality manner," she said. "If not, it indirectly takes away your health, chip by chip, without knowing it's happening."
Many people postpone sleep due to work obligations, a social schedule or because they choose instead to surf the Internet, watch TV or play video games, she said. It's important to educate yourself on the issue before something bad happens, Reynolds added.
"People who are sleep deprived are unable to lead a good social life. They are more prone to accidents, have memory loss, are short tempered and irritable and have changes in appetite," she said. "Sleep deprivation over a long period of time can have major effects on your health, causing heart attack, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cardiac arrhythmias."
The problem affects every age group and especially teens, who think they can do anything, she said.
"They often feel that going to bed early or getting adequate sleep is not 'cool,' " she explained. "This is going to affect their intellect, and they will have poor work performance."
Affected the most with sleep deprivation are shift workers, swing shift workers, truck drivers and police officers, she added.
Registered nurse Amanda Mallory each week works three, 12-hour night shifts at a hospital in Muncie, Ind. The 25-year-old Celina woman spends an additional three hours each day on the road traveling back and forth from her home.
Getting the proper amount of sleep most days is nearly impossible, she said.
"During the day I average about five hours of sleep," she said.
She tries to work three days straight so she can catch up on her rest on the remaining four days. But she admits it's a struggle to sleep well the first night she's off.
"I'm usually so tired, though, I eventually fall asleep," Mallory said.
It helps that she's single and has no children to care for when she gets home, she added.
Mallory said her secret to staying alert is caffeine and a good workout.
"I go for walks and do regular exercise," she said. "My first (college) degree was in exercise physiology. Exercise actually gives me more energy."
Most people find ways to overcome sleep deficits; others don't realize it's an issue in their lives, Reynolds said.
"People with sleep problems may not know they have a problem," she said. "It is usually a family member, spouse or child that notices."
Tips for better sleep:
• Stick to a routine; go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
• Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet and avoid television prior to sleeping.
• Use of a low, consistent background noise like a fan or soft music can be helpful.
• Take a warm bath approximately 90 minutes prior to going to bed. Keeping the body warm and the room cool will help.
• Try not to nap late in the afternoon or evening as this may affect your ability to fall asleep later.
• Watching the clock can create extra anxiety. It is more beneficial to get up and do something non-stimulating until you begin to feel sleepy.
• Clear your mind. Do not go to bed with today's regrets and tomorrow's worries.
• Avoid certain substances prior to bedtime such as caffeine, alcohol or nicotine. Also avoid eating a large meal before bed, although a light snack may help avoid the discomfort of an empty stomach.
• Regular exercise completed four hours prior to bedtime is recommended.
- National Sleep Foundation