Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sleep Deprivation and Illness

Too little sleep has been linked with several illnesses. And now a new study shows that quality of sleep can affect your blood pressure.
Most studies focusing on sleep look at quantity of sleep. But a new study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Hypertension is one of the first to look at quality of sleep, and its effects on health. The findings show that the quality of your nighttime snooze can affect your risk for high blood pressure.
The study looked specifically at the slow-wave stages of sleep, which represent the deepest hours of sleep. During slow-wave sleep, your brain’s electrical activity and heart rate slow down, and your adrenaline levels and blood pressure decrease. This nightly fall in blood pressure is a good thing, according to the researchers, and not having it may directly influence daytime blood pressure.

While the study used only male participants, Dr. Susan Redline, an author of the study, believes the results would also apply to people who fail to get enough deep sleep.

How can you know if you’re getting the slow-wave sleep you need? If you wake after seven or eight hours of sleep feeling tired and fuzzy headed, that may be a sign that you need more deep sleep. To improve your quality of sleep, try these tips:
• Avoid alcohol, which is known to suppress deep sleep, within four hours of bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy at first, but once it wears off, it leads to rebound arousal and insomnia.
• Keep your bedroom cool, dark and, most importantly, noise-free.
• Exercise during the day (studies show that being more physically active can increase the amount of time you spend in deep sleep at night) but not within three hours of bedtime.
• If you snore loudly or others notice you gasping for breath while sleeping, see your doctor or a sleep specialist for help. These symptoms (yours or someone else’s) can interrupt deep sleep.

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