Charles White, MD
Palmetto Health-USC Pulmonology
Common risk factors associated with poor sleep are irritability, memory loss, unclear thought processes and loss of focus. This is most often seen in the workplace when someone who is suffering from poor sleep pushes through the day and their quality of work deteriorates. Some effects of a lack of sleep are far more serious.
“Lack of sleep, or poor quality of the sleep that you do get, can cause you to be at a higher risk for cardiac issues, heart failure and stroke,” said Charles White, MD, who is re-opened a pulmonary medicine practice at Palmetto Health Tuomey this summer. “Good sleep qualifies as seven or more hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. So, seven hours with no dogs, no kids or partners waking you up. If you get six or less – well, that’s when the trouble starts to set in.”
People with sleep disorders may experience disruptions in sleep that result in sleep fragmentation. This can lead to significant daytime sleepiness, which can occur at any time during the waking hours at home, at work or while driving. While driving, a sudden onset of sleep or a “micro-sleep,” which may only last two or three seconds, can result in an automobile accident. In that short length of time, a car traveling at 60 miles per hour may cross two lanes of traffic, resulting in an accident. Sleep apnea may cause a two- to six-times increased risk of auto accidents.
Snoring, a symptom of sleep apnea, is more than a nuisance. The interruption of breathing that happens during snoring delays oxygen flow to the brain. This can cause many problems, especially cardiovascular issues. When there is not enough oxygen being pumped through the body and getting to the brain, the heart becomes “irritated,” White said.
“An irregular heartbeat from lack of oxygen can cause an increase in the intrathoracic pressure in your chest, causing your heart to have to work harder to pump and push blood through,” he explained. “This leads to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke because your heart is working harder.”
If you struggle with sleep issues, ask your doctor if a sleep study would be helpful, or try these helpful tips from Dr. White for a better night’s sleep tonight:
- Set a bedtime schedule and routine and stick with it.
- No in-bed disruptions (pets, children, snoring bed partners)
- No electronics in the bedroom (radio, TV, computer, smartphone)
- No “screen time” at least an hour before bed or download an app that reduces the white light from your device. The white light given off from electronics stimulates the parts of your brain that keep you awake.
- Remember anything less than 7 hours of quality sleep is considered dangerously inadequate.
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