Sleep Is An Essential Component Of Good Health

Many people think sleep is nothing more than a period of inactivity where they “do nothing,” but that could not be further from the truth.

Physicians say sleep is a required activity for people’s bodies to maintain good health. Someone who rises after a good night’s sleep feels rested, alert and ready to start the day.

But for many people, a good night’s sleep is an elusive dream. There are many reasons why this is an issue – an overactive mind, poor sleep practices, snoring and sleep apnea to name a few. A person might need a physician to unwind the mystery of his or her sleeping problems.

Patients with trouble sleeping receive help from several Wellmont Medical Associates physicians and at multiple Wellmont Health System sleep centers throughout the region.

“A person can have difficulties because of sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep,” said Dr. Lata Shah, who is board-certified in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and practices with Hawkins Pulmonary and Sleep Consultants, which is part of Wellmont Medical Associates. “It can lead to poor concentration, poor attention span, cognitive deficits, stresses, workplace errors and car crashes.” 

Insufficient sleep has also been linked to the development of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.

Many of Dr. Shah’s patients experience insomnia because of acute stress, a chronic medical condition or psychological problems.

“Most people experience sleep problems at some point,” she said. “They may have a few nights of difficulty falling asleep. Many people think a lot in bed because it is quiet, and they tend to go over things that make them stressed or anxious. If this lasts more than a month, they need to see their physician – especially if they don’t know why it’s happening.”

Insomnia is not the only sleep problem people experience. Other common problems include snoring, reflux disease, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. A person can have these problems without knowing it.

“Many patients with sleep apnea have spouses bring them in, and it’s generally the spouse who tells the patient that they quit breathing during the night,” Dr. Shah said. “We have so many spouses who tell us that they are scared to sleep because they think their partner will stop breathing and not wake up. So, one spouse’s sleep apnea keeps both from getting good sleep.”

A lot of spouses bring their partners to the physician for snoring as well. While snoring generates laughs in movies or on television, it can have serious consequences.

“Snoring is a sleep problem – especially if it is heavy snoring that affects daytime functioning,” Dr. Shah said. “Patients with snoring that affects their daily lives need to see their doctor for evaluation. There is a spectrum of disease that starts with snoring and then progresses to sleep apnea, where a person stops breathing.”

Dr. Shah wants people to understand there is help for sleep problems and that their detection and treatment is not scary or overly invasive.

She said patients who undergo a sleep study should arrive a couple of hours before bedtime. Sleep techs place sensors on different parts of the patient’s body and explain everything he or she is doing in detail. Eight to 10 functions are monitored with electrodes.

“There is nothing painful,” Dr. Shah said. “Patients simply go to sleep, and when they get up in the morning, they get ready and go about their daily activities as usual.”

The bottom line: Better sleep changes lives.

“Improving sleep energizes and replenishes you for optimal health,” she said. “Good sleep is an important part of good health.”

For more information, please visit wellmont.org or call Wellmont Nurse Connection at 1-877-230-NURSE (6877).