Good Sleep Isn’t an Overnight Fix
Have you ever thought of sleep as something that’s just as important to your health as exercising and eating a nutritious diet?
“We often take sleep for granted, but it’s very important for good health,” says Darla Klinger, Lead Sleep Technologist at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. “In fact, getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each day helps nearly everything in your body function better.”
So what exactly makes sleep – good?
Not All Sleep Is Equal: Stages of Sleep
During an ideal sleep session, the brain goes through four different sleep stages. It requires a certain amount of sleep in each stage in order to feel rested and rejuvenated after waking up.
A brief overview of each stage includes:
- N1 – The transitional stage from awake to asleep
- N2 – The sleep stage is where the most time is spent while the brain and body are basically just resting
- N3 – The most restorative stage of sleep when body systems and brain relax, rejuvenate and prepare for the next day
- Rapid eye movement (REM) – The most active stage of sleep where most dreaming occurs
“If you have a bad night of sleep for whatever reason, it cuts down on the amount of time spent in the four stages and our brain doesn’t get the rest it needs,” says Klinger. “That’s what causes us to feel fatigued and not able to meet the demands of the day.”
Am I Getting Enough Sleep?
In order to determine whether or not you’re getting enough sleep, Klinger recommends watching for several red flags. You may be sleep deprived if you wake up – even after a seemingly good night’s sleep – and:
- Feel tired or not well rested
- Have a headache
- Experience mood swings and/or irritability
She also adds that the idea of catching up on sleep is a myth. “Over a long period of time we build up sleep debt that we can’t make up for. At some point, it’s impossible to catch up.”
The good news is that there’s an easy way to determine your ideal amount of sleep.
“You know you’re getting enough good, quality sleep when you’re able to wake up without the help of an alarm and feel rested,” she says.
While research shows that most adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night, Klinger emphasizes that the quality of sleep is the most important part. “If you’re getting nine hours of sleep, but it’s not good quality because of something that’s disrupting your sleep such as a sleep disorder, then you’re not going to feel rested no matter how much time you spend in bed.”
“The best place to start is by setting better sleep hygiene practices. Look at your sleep patterns and environment to see if they promote sleep. Fix that first and foremost. Because no matter what a doctor might prescribe or recommend – if you don’t have a good environment that promotes restful sleep, then nothing else can make it better.”
Discover sleep hygiene tips from Sally Williams, DO, and Becky Hanzen.
Could I Have A Sleep Disorder?
Anyone – no matter what age, gender or weight – can suffer from a sleep disorder. If you still have concerns after two to three weeks of practicing better sleep hygiene, talk to your health care provider or see a sleep specialist who’s specially trained to identify sleep disorders. Avera’s board-certified sleep specialists will help you determine if sleep testing is needed in one of our accredited sleep labs in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, SD, and O’Neill, NE.
Learn more about sleep medicine at Avera.