Although most Americans would feel drowsy and cranky after a night of fewer than six hours of sleep, a recent study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found that while our bodies can become used to sleep deprivation, our health and well-being will continue to suffer until we get the rest we need.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the value of chiropractic care, urges Americans during National Sleep Awareness Week (March 13-19) to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Although doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are focused on neuromusculoskeletal conditions, they care for the whole patient and help the body achieve homeostasis. DCs can create a plan for all areas of patients’ lives including exercises, nutrition and sleep as well as educate patients on the important role of sleep in enhancing health and wellness.
As demonstrated in the study, while most participants with sleep loss felt lethargic and irritable after one night of sleep loss, researchers found that these negative mental and physical well-being symptoms peaked on the third consecutive day. Sleep loss continued to affect participants throughout the eight days studied even though they were able to better tolerate their symptoms as days passed. Although still suffering mental and physical symptoms, the ability to become accustomed to sleep loss should be particularly concerning to Americans given the strong link between habitual sleep loss and cardiovascular, neurologic and mental health problems.
“With so many demands on our time, too many Americans forgo needed sleep to the detriment of their career and personal life and overall sense of well-being,” says Sherry McAllister, DC, president of F4CP. “During National Sleep Awareness Week, we urge all Americans who regularly go without the recommended hours of sleep to make a new habit of structuring their day around sleep, even scheduling it into their day. Not only will they feel better, but their job performance and relationships may even improve as well.”
Sleep May Not Be One Size Fits All
The pineal and pituitary glands in our brains play important roles while we sleep and are part of the reason why adequate sleep improves our sense of well-being. The pineal gland releases the hormone melatonin, which regulates our circadian rhythms and makes us tired. During sleep, melatonin helps improve the quality of our sleep and is associated with protecting the brain from neurodegenerative disease.
The pituitary gland secretes luteinizing- and follicle-stimulating hormones, which are crucial for sexual development and human reproduction. Likewise, the pituitary gland produces growth hormone during sleep, which enables children to grow and helps adults maintain muscle mass, regulate cholesterol and promotes normal brain function.
Adequate sleep is crucial for these biochemical functions to occur, but logging seven or more hours in bed all at once may not be necessary. Segmented sleep, or polyphasic sleep, involves breaking the daily recommended sleep time into two or more shifts. Recent research shows that this approach can be effective for some, particularly hard-driving executives and scientists.
Healthy Choices Are Contagious
Regardless of the schedule, when people achieve adequate sleep, they tend to make other healthy choices in their life, such as eating nutritious food, exercising and staying balanced. Receiving regular chiropractic care improves balance and helps relieve neuromusculoskeletal pain and improve function, which can contribute to a good night’s rest. DCs can recommend bed hygiene changes such as using a cervical pillow to support the cervical curve of the spine, avoiding screens before bed, and ensuring the bedroom is dark, cool and calming.
“Doctors of chiropractic are trained and experienced in helping patients achieve nearly all their health goals naturally, including improving sleep, and can often recommend healthcare professionals in their network to address other physical and mental health needs,” states Dr. McAllister. “Whether patients are sleep deprived or not, their doctor of chiropractic will deliver care and education that will help them establish and maintain good sleep habits to promote optimal daily functioning and well-being.”
About Foundation for Chiropractic Progress
A not-for-profit organization with over 29,000 members, the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) informs and educates the general public about the value of chiropractic care delivered by doctors of chiropractic (DC) and its role in drug-free pain management. Visit www.f4cp.org/findadoctor; call 866-901-F4CP (3427).