It is not uncommon for a patient to sit in front of me and say something like, “I get maybe four or five hours of sleep per night. I know you are supposed to get more, but I seem to do ok on just that.” If this sounds like you, you may not be doing as well as you think. Several recent studies have found that not getting enough restful sleep can have surprisingly serious consequences.
A study published in 2010 examined restricted sleep and the implications for the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. Nine healthy individuals demonstrated insulin resistance after just one night of partial sleep (4 hours). Researchers conclude that sleep deprivation may create an increased risk for issues such as Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. If just one night of decreased sleep has such measurable effects on the body’s metabolic processes, the implications for chronic sleep deprivation are ominous.
An earlier study examined not just the importance of the amount of sleep a person got, but the amount of deep sleep, known as slow-wave sleep, that a person got per night. The study found that after three nights of selective slow-wave sleep suppression, young healthy participants became less sensitive to insulin. Evidently quality of your sleep matters as well.
In fact, a review of existing studies suggests that sleeping too little (fewer than six hours) or too much (more than nine hours) are both associated with a shortened lifespan, suggesting that addressing sleep issues and health conditions which impact sleep is a wise move.
If you suffer from an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or if you wake feeling unrefreshed, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help. For thousands of years, Chinese medicine has stressed quality sleep, along with healthy diet and stress management, as critically important to health. Acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas can help your body rebalance and finally rest. Chinese medicine can also help treat fatigue and/or a need to sleep excessively.
In the hectic pace of our world, sleep is often sacrificed to make room for more work or more play, and this is considered a necessary and acceptable compromise. Both modern research and ancient traditions, however, say otherwise. If you are skimping on sleep, stop. If you are not able to sleep or are sleeping too much, seek some help to prevent other health problems from developing or worsening.
Here are some basic suggestions for creating the optimal conditions for sleep:
* Go to bed and get up at consistent times (regardless of the amount of sleep during the previous night)
* Exercise daily
* Limit fluids in the evening
* Discontinue stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine
* Refrain from watching TV or working in the bedroom
* Establish a nightly routine for winding down from the day
* Practice relaxation techniques and/or meditation regularly