Sleep and Sleep Deficit: How It Affects Your Health

Dr. Rathod

by Varsha Rathod, M.D.

We all know what it means to sleep and feel rested. Medically, sleep refers to a suspended state of consciousness, sensory activity, and voluntary muscle activity. It is an anabolic state, which means that it fosters growth and repair of the body, especially rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, and musculo-skeletal systems.

I teach patients that the best credit into their wellness bank account is to get good quality sleep. Sleep is an essential component of healing from chronic illness. The goal here is not to rely on medication or supplements, but to figure out and remedy the root cause(s) of sleep problems. These may be allergies, constipation, chronic fatigue, hormonal problems, chronic inflammation and structural problems, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, poor nutrition, inadequate movement and exercise, troubled relationships, or psychiatric problems, etc. Often the cause of sleep deprivation can also be the cause of chronic illness and vice versa.

What simple lifestyle changes can help?

  1. Avoid stimulants after 12 pm. Stimulants to monitor are: coffee, nicotine, teas, and energy drinks.
  2. Make an effort to increase your nutritional intelligence and habits. More than 90% of each meal should come from a whole food, plant-based diet. It is wise to keep dinner light in protein and calories; breakfast and lunch should be the key caloric meals.
  3. Exercise for one half hour during the day, and avoid exercise at least 4 hours prior to bed-time. This practice has been shown to improve sleep over a few months.
  4. Allow yourself an hour of wind-down time, preferably with an activity such as reading, meditating, prayer, family or social time. Avoid TV and alcohol before bedtime.
  5. Keep your bedtime and waking time fairly consistent.
  6. Avoid LED lights in the bedroom. It is best to keep your sleep environment devoid of any light sources and keep your bedroom temperature between 60- 67 degrees. If you are a light sleeper, consider a white noise machine.

Achieving proper sleep hygiene is a journey. It can be long and complex for some, or short and simple for others. I have presented a few ideas that may help you begin the process. I am convinced that developing a peaceful sleep regimen is well worth the effort and will reward you mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Dr. Varsha Rathod is a board certified Rheumatologist and Internist at Preventive Medicine in the Westport Plaza Area of St. Louis, MO. The practice has focused on a combination of traditional and holistic medicine since 1967. For more articles and information about integrative solutions please visit www.preventivemedicinestl.com or call Preventive Medicine at 314-997-5403.