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A recent article was written by Dr. Fadil in the .

Are you getting a good night's rest?

Lost and interrupted sleep accumulates as a debt that can have serious health consequences
Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sleep is a natural phenomena as well as a requirement for health. Several physiologic changes take place during sleep, but it is not fully understood why we need to sleep. The most accepted theories are: Regulate our body temperature; protect our immune system, and also allow our brain to rejuvenate itself.

Lost and interrupted sleep accumulates as a debt, and is only reduced by obtaining additional sleep and/or treating underlying sleep disorders. Building up sleep debt means you will feel very tired, fall asleep faster, become more impaired, and possibly pose a risk to yourself and others, by falling asleep during inappropriate times.

Are you aware that:

More than 35 million Americans have sleep disorders.

50,000 premature and preventable deaths occur yearly from sleep apnea.

200,000 auto accidents each year are sleep related.

The health consequences of sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness add approximately $15 billion to our national health care bill.

Despite those figures, it is estimated that 95 percent of people suffering from sleep disorders remain undiagnosed. This amounts to significant public health and safety concerns related to excessive sleep debt.

We have also seen an increase in students with failing grades at school and dropout rates; accidents in the transportation industry, such as long haul truckers and bus drivers; mistakes in medical practice by sleep deprived physicians and nurses, and diminished work place productivity and performance.

The worsening of underlying medical conditions caused by sleep deprivation are: Hypertension; coronary artery disease; emphysema; arthritis; dementia; asthma; stroke; depression; impotence; frequent night-time urination, and so many others where more medications offer no adequate cure.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989 (one of the worst environmental tragedies in history) was related to sleep deprivation.

In March 2006, the NTSB invoked fatigue as a direct cause, or contributing factor in every accident due to human error, unless specifically ruled out. Also driving while sleepy impairs driving performance as much as driving while intoxicated by alcohol.

How often have you told your Doctor, "Doc, I am so tired" or "Doc, I just have no energy." The moment we hear that from our patients we usually run a common list of diseases to test. We look for diseases, such as anemia, depression, stress, systemic disease, chronic infection, hypothyroidism, organ failure or even cancer.

After our mega work-up is complete and is negative, the problem may turn out to be simply due to an inadequate amount of sleep (insomnia) or poor quality sleep (as in sleep disorder breathing, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome), which happens to be amazingly common.

So, are you having enough sleep? If we look back over the past 100 years everything seems to be moving faster with the advent of so-called "time saving devices."

Despite fax machines, e-mail, cell phones and black berries, we still do not save time for relaxation, family and leisure pursuits. Instead, our lives have become more cluttered with tasks, and constant distractions. The time previously spent to prepare and enjoy a meal with family and friends is getting harder to find, contributing to explosive growth in eating fast food. Unfinished business at work is done over the cell phone while driving. Exercise and scheduled relaxation are always put off. As a result, obesity, stress, anxiety and depression have never been more prevalent in our society.


This has taken a tremendous toll on the quality of our sleep. This pace of life has made it difficult for so many millions of people to fall and stay asleep. So many studies have confirmed that we, as a society are significantly sleep deprived. This puts us at risk for heart and nervous system diseases.

Adequate and quality sleep can make a big difference. You can increase your sleep hygiene by doing the following:

Fix your wake up time.

Use the bedroom for sleep, marital relations and illness only.

Exercise every day at least three to four hours before bed time.

Go to bed when sleepy. If you wake in the middle of the night and fail to go back to sleep in 15 to 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and come back when sleepy.

Eliminate caffeine and nicotine a few hours before bedtime

If you take a nap it should not be after 3 p.m.

Following good sleep hygiene will guarantee you a good quality and quantity of sleep every night, which will enable you to enjoy a better, longer and more fruitful life. So pay your debt or else!

This column is provided by the Richmond County Medical Society. Questions may be sent to the column in care of the Advance.

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