Sleep is necessary to feel refreshed, but now we know that
sleep actually impacts the way the body functions. Sleeping
poorly can affect how often you get sick, your weight and,
for children, how well they grow. Learn why sleep can mean
more than just a good night's rest.
For as long as there have been mothers, there have been
people telling us to "get a good night's sleep." But what
exactly is "a good night's sleep?"
Adequate sleep is enough sleep so that we feel refreshed and
able to function the following day. The amount of hours in
bed is not as important; it's different from person to
Sleep loss, we think, is best defined individually in
relation to what the person's sleep need is.
And sleep loss can produce more consequences than just a few
yawns the next day.
Besides just not feeling well, we're not as sharp, we're not
as quick to respond to the rosh yeshiva, we can have more
traffic accidents, we're not as sharp in the
workplace/kollel. It can lead to mood disorders. Many people
who don't get enough sleep develop depression. If we don't
get the right amount of sleep for our bodies, it can have a
lot of effects on our health.
And while many people who don't get enough sleep may just
have a vague feeling of not being at their best, in fact
their bodies could be registering real problems.
So all the reactions — the physiological reactions
— to sleep deprivation or sleep loss are maladaptive,
because we don't have mechanisms to adapt to sleep too
little, because that's not part of our biology.
In other words, studies have shown some potentially serious
physical consequences can arise as a result of chronic sleep
Sleep loss has an adverse effect on our ability to metabolize
sugar. In one week of severe sleep deprivation, such as 4
hours per night, a healthy, lean, fit volunteer will be in a
With sleep loss, we have also noticed an increase in hunger
and appetite and profound alterations in hormones that
regulate hunger and appetite. Such that, when you're sleep-
deprived, you may overeat well in excess of the caloric
demands and, therefore, sleep loss is probably also a risk
factor for weight gain and obesity.
Lack of sleep can set off a variety of hormonal changes,
affecting our mood and even our growth.
Cortisol, which is a stress hormone, is normally very low in
the evening, because it sort of prepares us for a relaxed
state to go to sleep. But in a state of sleep debt, cortisol
levels in the evening are elevated. So somehow, a state of
sleep loss is read as a stressor.
As young girls and boys enter puberty, they have pulsations
of different hormones from their brain that put them into
puberty. And these pulsations occur at night while they're
sleeping. So if they are not on a normal sleep-wake cycle,
this can interfere with the pulsatile secretion of these
hormones and it can affect when and how they go through
puberty. And with going through puberty, it affects their
height and their growth.
And if you ever noticed that you tend to get sick if you're
overtired — well, there may be a connection.
In general, sleep loss has an adverse effect on immune
function. And in particular, sleep loss will affect the
response to a vaccination.
We know that people who don't get enough sleep and are
fatigued all the time seem to be more susceptible to
diseases. Research into the role of sleep in maintaining
health is still in its infancy, but experts do know that
practicing good bedtime habits is still an excellent idea.
One advice is to sleep in a cool room, sleep in a dark room,
do not use the bedroom for work activities, for watching
videos or listening to music. Avoid heavy foods late at
night. Regular exercise during the daytime will promote
sleep. Regular sleep times are also recommended.
Allowing yourself adequate time for sleep should be a
priority. However, at times, good sleep may be elusive. And
while medication is not a cure for sleep deprivation, a sleep
aide may be useful on a short-term basis.
We like to break it down into the old medicines and the new
medicines. The old medicines are usually in a class of drugs
called the benzodiazepines. And they're usually a little bit
longer-acting than some of the newer medications, so they
will give you the side effects going into the next day
sometimes. Some of the longer ones will make the patients
feel fatigued and dragging and even cause a dry mouth the
The newer medications are in a class of drugs that we call
non-benzodiazepines. And these drugs have a much shorter
duration of action and much less side effects, so that the
patients feel more refreshed the following day.
Whatever the method someone uses to recapture good sleep,
it's important to realize that getting "enough sleep" is
something your body craves to keep it functioning at full
Our whole body needs sleep to function. It needs to recover
from the day before and to go into the next day. Every
function in the body depends on sleep, on that time to
rebuild and get ready for the next day.
2004 Dr. Reuven Bruner. All Rights Reserved. For more
information contact him at: POB 1903, Jerusalem, 91314,
Israel; Tel: (02) 652-7684; Mobile: 052 2865-821; Fax: (02)
652-7227; Email: email@example.com