Sleep, the New Health Frontier
Written by Editor   
Thursday, April 10, 2014 08:14 AM

Your doctor could soon be prescribing crucial shuteye as treatment for everything from obesity to ADHD to mental health as experts say carving out time for sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.

Sleep therapists help teach patients to adjust sleep habits such as getting under the covers only when extremely tired; quit watching TV in bed; stop drinking caffeinated coffee in the evening. They also share breathing exercises to relax and help patients drift off. It is all quite simple and common sense, and, most importantly, noninvasive and didn’t require popping any pills.

“It’s common knowledge that sleep is needed for day to day function,” says Dr. David Rapoport, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU School of Medicine. “What isn’t common knowledge is that it really matters—it’s not just cosmetic.” Rapoport is seeing an increasing number of patients being referred to his center for common diseases, disorders, and mental health.

Researchers have known for some time that too little sleep is linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to depression. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health. Beyond chronic illnesses, a child’s behavioral problems at school could be rooted in mild sleep apnea. And studies have shown children with ADHD are more likely to get insufficient sleep. A recent study shows sleep is essential in early childhood for development, learning, and the formation and retention of memories.

Over time, sleep deprivation can have serious consequences, but we mostly sacrifice a night of sleep here and there, and always say that we’ll “catch up.” Luckily, it is possible to make up for sleep debt (though it can take a very long time), but most Americans are still chronically sleep deprived.

While diet and exercise have been a part of public health messaging for decades, doctors and health advocates are now beginning to argue that getting quality sleep may be just as important for overall health.  Sleep experts claim that it is one of the top three, and sometimes the most, important lifestyle adjustments one can make, in addition to diet and exercise.

“Many doctors, lawyers, and executives stay up late and get up early and burn the candle at both ends.  Making sure they pay attention to sleep in the same way they pay attention to diet and exercise is crucial.”

There’s growing pressure on primary care physicians to address, and even prescribe, sleep during routine check-ups. In a recent study researchers concluded that health professionals should prescribe sleep to prevent and treat metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes. And overlooking sleep as a major health issue can also have deadly consequences.

A large part of reaping the benefits of sleep is knowing when you’re not getting the right amount. According to a 2013 Gallup survey, 40% of Americans get less than the recommended seven to eight hours a night. While the typical person still logs about 6.8 hours of sleep per night, that’s a drop from the 7.9 Americans were getting in the 1940s.

 

Source:  http://time.com/55390/sleep-is-the-new-health-frontier/