Tips and Facts about Sleep

Sleep: we all need it – some of us seemingly more than others. Dr. Sunil Sharma, Associate Director, Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center, recently participated in an ABC News Twitter Chat on the subject. Here are some facts and helpful tips:

1. Even after millions of years of evolution, humans’ need for sleep has not changed. Like those before us, we still sleep about 1/3 of our lives.
2. Sleep regulates our metabolism, improves memory and is essential for life.
3. Your mom was right – not getting enough sleep can stunt your growth. This is because growth hormones are secreted during sleep. Children need about 8-11 hours of sleep per night.
4. Being an early-bird or night-owl is determined by our Circadian Clock. This is your body’s internal clock. The split is pretty even with 60 percent of humans identifying as early-birds and 40 percent as night-owls.
5. Try as you might, you cannot make up for lost sleep. However, homeostatic pressure (how tired you are) can override your Circadian Clock. Dr. Sharma shared that the 24/7 nature of modern life has really disrupted the equilibrium of these two factors.
6. Adults typically need about 6-8 hours of sleep, but the key is feeling rested when you wake up, so this can vary from person to person.
7. Those with sleep apnea should avoid sleeping on their back. Sleeping with your head elevated can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea.
8. About 37 percent of adults in the US have reported having insomnia (defined as the inability to go to sleep or stay asleep, with daytime consequences). In about 10 percent of those cases, the insomnia can become chronic. This means that your brain can get stuck in a pattern of not being able to fall asleep, resulting in “sleep debt”.
9. It’s best to treat insomnia as soon as possible since lack of sleep can have long-term consequences such as memory loss, weight gain and diabetes as well as depression and mood disorders.
10. Wind down, don’t wine down. Dr. Sharma reminds us that alcohol and Benadryl are not cures for insomnia.

Fun fact: Established in 1978, the Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center was the first such program in the Philadelphia area and is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Because sleep disorders aren’t limited to one traditional medical discipline, our Center staff continually interacts with experts from other medical specialties – including psychiatry, psychology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, otolaryngology, pediatrics, neurology, internal medicine and pulmonary medicine.

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