Haims column: Don’t dismiss the hazards of poor sleep | PostIndependent.com

Haims column: Don’t dismiss the hazards of poor sleep

Judson Haims

Unfortunately, many of us are so used to irregular and short sleep cycles that the signs of sleep deprivation may not be clear. Knowing and being aware of some of the signs your body needs more sleep may be helpful.

Sleep deprivation can lead to hypertension, type 2 diabetes and, possibly, stroke. Sleep is an integral time for the body to repair. When the body is deprived of sleep, it doesn't complete all of the phases needed for muscle and tissue repair, memory consolidation, release of hormones, and the regulation of cortisol and blood pressure.

If these nonvisual threats aren't enough of a wake-up call for changing your sleep habits, perhaps your vanity may want to take note — there is an association between sleep and weight gain. Yep, too little and too much sleep has a proven correlation to excess body weight. Ever find yourself surfing the refrigerator late at night?

There are biological reasons that people who are sleep deprived find themselves hungrier than normal. Sleep deprivation affects glucose and insulin levels. When your body is tired and in need of energy, high calorie and high fat foods provide quick energy fixes.

Two hormones that effect weight are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is produced within our gastrointestinal tracts and sends hunger signals to our brain. When our stomachs are empty, ghrelin is secreted. The leptin hormone helps to tell you that you are full. Leptin is secreted primarily in fat cells, as well as the stomach, heart, placenta and skeletal muscle. According to research posted in The European Sleep Research Society, after just two consecutive nights of four hours of sleep, test subjects had a 28 percent higher ghrelin (hunger) hormone level and 18 percent lower leptin (satiety) hormone level in their blood compared with subjects who had slept 10 hours a night.

The association between sleep deprivation and hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and stroke is complicated. However, without trivializing complex issues, it all comes down to stresses on the body. When the body becomes stressed hormones are often released — some are beneficial, and others are not.

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Out of balanced hormones can wreak havoc on your circulatory system. They can increase blood pressure, damage the walls of the arteries, affect the heart rate and cause blockages in the blood vessels.

Altitude can also play a part in quality of sleep. As altitude increases, oxygen levels in the air decrease. For many people, the decreased oxygen can cause irregular breathing patterns where stop and start breathing occurs. When these occurrences happen, your brain is forced from deeper stages of sleep in effort to get the body to breathe again. This particular type of apnea is called central apnea.

Common signs of sleep deprivation and/or lack of quality sleep include depression, hunger and cravings for carbohydrates, increased agitation, low levels of patience, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation and even reduced sex drive.

Many of today's fitness monitors can track wake and sleep times — some can monitor oxygen levels while you sleep. BodiMetrics, FitBit, Jawbone, Zeo and Sleep Cycle are just a few readily available products that will inform you of your sleep patterns and oxygen levels.

Sleep is important to your entire body. If you are not getting enough sleep, perhaps it's time you look into the situation. The effects are deeper than just being tired. Consult your doctor and ask questions. You need to be your best advocate.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Garfield/Pitkin County. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.