Insomnia, daytime sleepiness, multiple nighttime awakenings. Experts recommend sleeping around 8 hours a day for adults, but at least 40% have complications related to sleep according to the World Health Organization. Good sleep can be pleasant, but it is above all a vital need of the body and has a direct impact on overall health.
“Good sleep affects all areas of life,” says Cecilia Berrozpe, a neurologist at FLENI’s Sleep Medicine Unit. And he emphasizes: “It allows us to be alert, strengthens the immune system, favors our cognitive and metabolic functions.” The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche already referred to sleep in his book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” more than a century ago: “Sleeping is not a small art: you need, for this, to be awake all day.” How do daytime routines help to achieve a good quality of sleep? Why is a good night’s sleep so relevant? What effects did the pandemic have? Berrozpe answers these questions to understand the importance of good rest and provides some simple guidelines to achieve it.
What is the sleep repair phenomenon and why is it vital to life?
-Sleep is a physiological need of great importance. It is a dynamic state during which metabolic, memory, cellular and hormonal restitution processes take place, related to immunity and the elimination of waste products of neuronal metabolism, among others. For this reason, bad sleep habits often lead to disorders that affect the quality of life and vital processes of the body.
What are the most common sleep disorders?
-The most frequent are insomnia and apneas. Insomnia is the difficulty in initiating and / or maintaining sleep despite having the right opportunity and circumstances to sleep. Apneas are transient airway obstructions. They affect blood oxygen levels and can lead to fragmented sleep. Their early diagnosis is important because they are a cardiovascular risk factor and increase the probability of accidents.
In what other ways can they impact quality of life?
-Sleep deficit is associated with mood disorders such as lack of motivation, low tolerance to frustration, anxiety and depression; and physical, which can manifest with pain, fatigue and even increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Sleep deprivation can affect cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, learning ability, and reaction time.
Why are these types of disorders so recurrent? In what ways does context affect?
-Social and technological changes in recent years have caused sleep to be affected, many times, generating a mismatch between the biological clock and our “social clock”. Bad habits such as irregular sleep schedules, studying or working at night, and late-night use of electronic devices are reflected in sleep of poor quality and quantity. On the other hand, social, affective, economic and housing factors have a profound impact on going to bed.
Did the pandemic leave consequences on the quality of sleep?
-Yes. Many began to work from home and the work activity invaded different spaces of the home, as well as leisure and rest time. Others found it difficult to maintain their regular hours. During the pandemic, the Argentine Association of Sleep Medicine conducted a survey, and 53% of the participants complained of having a poor quality of sleep. This is more than half the population, at least. Information overload about death and illness, isolation, financial problems, and lack of social interaction have not helped. However, many other patients also reported better sleep, especially those whose main problem was the lack of opportunity to sleep. By decreasing their social and work activity, they were able to spend more time sleeping.
How to build healthy habits to sleep better? What are the warning signs?
-Some simple guidelines can help us build good sleep hygiene: keep a regular time to wake up and end the day; do physical activity during the day; reduce the consumption of stimulants such as coffee and mate from 6 pm; have dinner at least two hours before going to bed; do not drink excess fluids at night; avoid ‘rumination’ problems when lying down; and do not use screens or electronic devices at night. Alcohol and tobacco, in addition to damaging health, alter sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, daytime sleepiness or snoring and choking when sleeping, it is necessary to consult a specialist.
Can technology help in any way?
-Yes, it is very useful especially to achieve good diagnoses and better treatments. We have polysomnography and polygraphy equipment that record different physiological variables and allow us to evaluate the architecture of sleep, breathing, movements, and electroencephalogram as appropriate. In addition, there are therapeutic devices for the treatment of apneas that have evolved to give the patient greater comfort. Without a doubt, good sleep hygiene and getting adequate treatments help you sleep better, and this has an impact in all areas of life.
Cecilia Berrozpe is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Neurology. Currently, he works in the FLENI Sleep Medicine Unit, is a Meritorious Member of the Argentine Association of Sleep Medicine and a Member of the Argentine Neurological Society (SNA). Throughout his career, he has participated as a speaker in multiple conferences, courses and refresher sessions on Sleep Medicine, both in the public and private spheres.