Health News Digest


June 3, 2019

Another Look At Sleep

By Michael D. Shaw

We first covered this subject back in 2013. That piece provided a historical perspective—even delving into a bit of Greek mythology—and discussed approaches to insomnia.

Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines “sleep” as “A physiologic state of relative unconsciousness and inaction of the voluntary muscles, the need for which recurs periodically.” Most of us wonder how much sleep we really need. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation published an article updating its sleep duration recommendations. Here are some highlights…

  • School age children (age 6-13)     9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (age 14-17)     8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (age 18-25)     7-9 hours
  • Adults (age 26-64)     7-9 hours
  • Older adults (age 65+)     7-8 hours

The full study includes more age groups for infants and toddlers, and additional columns listing durations that “may be appropriate” and durations that are “not recommended.”

These results were based on a systematic literature review and used quantitative techniques to summarize expert opinion concerning recommended sleep durations. Certain caveats were mentioned in the paper’s Discussion section:

1.     The panel emphasized that some individuals might sleep longer or shorter than the recommended times with no adverse effects. However, individuals with sleep durations far outside the normal range may be engaging in volitional sleep restriction or have serious health problems. An individual who intentionally restricts sleep over a prolonged period may be compromising his or her health and well-being.

2.     This project focused on sleep duration. Cohort and population studies often do not distinguish between time in bed and actual sleep time. However, actual sleep time is typically less than time in bed, which biases data toward higher sleep duration estimates. Notably, intervention studies using laboratory measured sleep time will typically produce shorter sleep durations.

3.     Other factors come into play when evaluating the restorative properties of sleep. These include sleep quality, sleep architecture, and the timing of sleep within the day.

Can lost hours of sleep be made up? Relatively small deficits can be made up, such as a total of five hours during a week, that could be recovered over a weekend. However, you may not recover all the lost sleep if you lose over 20 hours in a week. Still, the body can at least partially accommodate for this sleep deficit in other ways.

According to Dr. Charles Smith of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, “By nature our bodies try to recover as much of deep sleep and REM sleep that is lost and may forego other stages of sleep.”  Dr. Smith has recently opened a direct care practice.

Chronic sleep deprivation is no joke, and has been associated with numerous conditions including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Also of interest is your sleeping position. According to the National Sleep Foundation: “Your sleeping pose can have a major impact on your slumber—as well as your overall health. Poor p.m. posture could potentially cause back and neck pain, fatigue, sleep apnea, muscle cramping, impaired circulation, headaches, heartburn, tummy troubles, and even premature wrinkles.”

As you can see from the above linked page, there are advantages and disadvantages to the four positions of back, side, fetal position, and stomach. For example, while only eight percent of people sleep on their back, it is the best position, although it does make snoring more severe, and is bad for those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Important in any sleep position is your pillow, and there are many varieties on the market. I was just introduced to the company Kozaye, a Belgian-inspired maker of luxury sleep accessories, and its new line of hemp and bamboo memory foam pillows designed for optimal sleep.

Company founder Alexandria Ohlinger told me that “Kozaye started as a personal journey to find the perfect pillow. Since then, we have taken the guesswork out of finding your version of ‘pillow perfection.’ Our pillows are made with hemp and bamboo fabrics that are soft to the touch; and are designed to regulate your body temperature, enabling you to enjoy a cool and comfortable night’s sleep.”

Kozaye offers a 100-night risk-free trial; free shipping and returns; and a 3-year limited warranty.

We conclude with two quotations about sleep…

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you rest, your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24)

“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.” (Wilson Mizner)