In the current medical culture physicians only have minutes to spend with each of their patients. In these few minutes a physician is expected to comprehensively understand the patient, workup the presentation appropriately, and deliver quality care. Due to the limited time given with each patient, the simplest screening inquiries can be easily overlooked. I believe there are certain questions that every physician should ask their patient, one of the most important being: how much sleep are you getting every night?
Research has shown detrimental implications of lack of sleep on multiple organ systems. For instance, studies have revealed a direct link between sleep deprivation and adverse cardiac events including fatal arrhythmias, high blood pressure, development of atherosclerosis which causes heart attacks, and strokes. In addition lack of sleep further exacerbates ongoing inflammation, progresses the body balance towards obesity, and causes development of metabolic syndrome. Also, during sleep the brain has an opportunity to cleanse itself of toxins that tend to accumulate over time, which may halt the progression of neurocognitive decline and promote healthier mood balance. In addition, during sleep our body is able to form and solidify its immunological memory which is vital to our survival. Not only is sleeping essential for overall health but it also has it perks in the beauty department. It’s during sleep that our cells repair and regenerate themselves causing our skin to maintain its elasticity and protect itself from intrinsic aging.
So how much sleep is optimal? We are all unique human beings and what maybe optimal for one person may not have the same implication for the other. However, there are guidelines as to how much sleep we should be getting based on our age group. For example, a newborn should be getting anywhere from 14 to17 hours of sleep, whereas an adult in age group of 26 to 64 years of age should be getting anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Our sleep is comprised of four stages, each serving a different purpose therefore it is important we allow our bodies to get restorative and restful sleep every night.
I believe multiple diseases can be treated and prevented if every physician screened their patients for this one essential life pattern. About one third of our day should be spent sleeping so we can thrive in the other two thirds of our day. With it’s proven benefits on our physical and mental health, getting more sleep should be on everyone’s agenda. As a physician and a promoter of health I always pay attention to the basic things, as it’s the simple things in medicine that can truly empower and make an impact in a patient’s life.