Sleep Deprivation: How much sleep do you need?

What Happens If You Don't Get Enough Sleep?

The effects of getting too little sleep has now been researched and the findings are telling. Do you fall in the category of people who are not sleeping enough?

Lack of Sleep Leads to Falls

In a recent study of almost 3,000 women, it was found that  those who didn't get a good seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night were found to be at significantly higher risk of recurrent falls, irrespective of whether they had other health issues or took sleeping pills, tranquilizers, or sedatives such as Valium.

These women were also more likely to take naps during the day and to spend more of the daytime being physically inactive. This confirms an earlier study, which found that daily napping is a risk factor for falls and fractures in older adults ( Archives of Internal Medicine).

My Take on Sleep Deprivation:

As many as a third of all people older than 50 are estimated to fall every year. Falls can also be a big health risk for midlife women and even much younger. There are a number of factors that are seen as contributors to a woman's risk of falling.

On closer inspection, however, they all seem to stem from the same root cause: lack of exercise. For example, many studies cite tripping over a household pet as one of the most frequent causes of recurrent falls.

But the truth is, when a young woman of twenty trips over an obstacle like a pet, she's more likely to catch herself, while an older woman is more likely to fall.

(If you need to better sleep, this article may help you.)

Is the cat or dog to blame? Not necessarily. 

What Happens To Your Body With Sleep Deprivation?

The difference between a woman catching herself or falling is largely the number of neuromuscular junctions she has, which are the solid, competent connections between the nerves that perceive the threat of falling, and the muscles that respond fast enough and powerfully enough to prevent the fall.

People who engage in strength-building exercise on a regular basis not only preserve muscle strength, they also preserve neuromuscular junctions. As a result, if they trip, they're much less likely to fall.

The current study found that older women who suffered recurrent falls did not get a healthy amount of uninterrupted sleep each night, and were more likely to take naps during the day and less likely to engage in regular daytime activity.

That translates to loss of muscle and loss of neuromuscular junctions. It might be the crack in the sidewalk that "caused" a woman to fall, but in the final analysis, she fell because her neuromuscular system didn't keep that minor misstep from turning into a major incident.

The bottom line is, every woman needs to make sleep and exercise priorities not only for the health benefits, but also because exercise helps you sleep better.

Start an exercise program that includes an aerobic component (like walking) and a strength training component.

The truth is many women have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. In fact, insomnia is one of the most common complaints that I hear from patients.

A relaxing amino acid researched in Japan, called L-theanine is derived from tea. L-theanine has been found to significantly improve sleep quality without acting as a sedative. It also helps you to unwind from the stress of your day. For best results, take 100-200 mg of L-theanine before going to bed at night.

Another sleeping aid, if you're having trouble sleeping, is to take a natural supplement--I suggest taking 1 - 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime. Start with the lowest dosage and increase as necessary until you get the desired effect.

Dr Susan

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