Sleep As Medicine

Is it Beauty Sleep or Really Healthy Sleep?
Last month I was on my Emergency Medicine rotation; the shifts are an assortment between day and night. One week could have two over night shifts and three day shifts, allowing me only 4-5 hours naps between them. This was a hard adjustment for me since I am so used to getting a full eight hours of sleep at night each night to function my best. During busy overnight calls in the past, I rely on coffee and increased food to keep me going. After a few weeks like this, I feel dehydrated and groggy from the poor diet and lifestyle choices made.

This month, I tried my best to pack healthy snacks, bring a large water bottle to work. Additionally, I tried to sleep as regularly as possible. The last week, I feel into bad habits of napping at weird times then being awake at night and munching on anything in sight..... crackers, cookies, pizza and pretzels.  Crackers and pretzels aren't even foods I enjoy!! Today I thought about what lack of sleep does to the body, specifically weight.

How does lack of sleep affect your health?

Many studies have all mounted to show lack of sleep (less than 7-8 hours at a time) increases a person's weight and risk of obesity. Studies have shown that decreased sleep in children not only increases childhood obesity ricks, but adulthood obesity and chronic diseases.  

Less sleep triggers the body to feel hungry and being awake more hours of the day allows a sleep deprived person more time to eat.  This is a vicious cycle!

Sleeping less also make individuals "too tired" to be active during the day and the body decreases it's basal temperature which slows metabolism. Slower metabolism leads to weight gain and storing the foods consumed instead of using them for immediate energy.

Studies have also shows that the stress lack of sleep puts on your body, increases stress hormones and inflammation.... this increases risks of diabetes among other diseases such as heart disease. The increase in stress hormones also lowers the immune system making it easier to get sick.

How To get More Regular Sleep:
-Have a routine before bedtime: Take a warm shower, limit TV or computer screen time, turn down lights, make to do lists for the next day, wind down!
-Go to be at the same time each night: Humans live by a circadian rhythm, this means we like to sleep when it is dark out and our body gets into the habit to sleep around the same time each day.
-Set aside time to get a full 7-8 hours a night. Don't stay up to watch that TV show, instead record it to watch on another day.
-Limit caffeine and alcohol hours before sleep. Both of these limit the body's ability to have a good deep sleep.

Now that my month in the ER is over, I am eager to get back to a regular schedule of sleeping. Not only do I feel more alert, but I now know sleep is preventing future risks of diseases.  

Time to catch some ZZZ's


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