More ways sleep can protect your health

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Why do we sleep?

This is an age-old question with no easy answer. There are several theories, from it being a holdover evolutionary trait that kept early humans safe at night, to sleep being a necessary time for the body to heal and restore itself. There are many good reasons to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep as a learning aid

Recent research into sleep has also given us insight into brain plasticity theory. This compelling theory shows that sleep is also a time when our brain forges new pathways, helping to cement our learning and memories of the previous day’s events.

This theory explains why infants and young children spend much more of their sleeping time in REM compared to adults.

Lack of sleep affects our memory negatively. A history of insufficient sleep can weaken our memories, making us more prone to age-related memory issues later in life.

Our eyes and how we sleep

The way we sleep can affect our vision. Sleeping flat on our backs increases nighttime intraocular pressure (IOP), which can aggravate or lead to glaucoma. Simply elevating the head by 20 degrees with a wedge-shaped pillows relieves the pressure, minimizing the risks and effects of glaucoma.

Other sleep issues can also affect glaucoma. A study by Taipei Medical University found that those that suffer from sleep apnea are 1.67 times more likely to develop glaucoma.

Apnea symptoms include snoring, gasping for breath, failure to breath for up to 2 minutes while asleep, and morning headaches. If you suspect that you have apnea, you must meet with your doctor. You may also want to have a glaucoma test performed.

Sleep and sickle cell

Apnea isn’t just a warning sign for glaucoma. A study in the Journal of Medicine found that 44 percent of adults with sickle cell anemia also suffered from a sleep breathing disorder.

Previously, these sleep disorders went undiagnosed because sickle cell patients didn’t meet the other risk factors for sleeping disorders. With this new research, patients can undergo sleep treatments which will help them get a better night’s sleep.

Not only will this make patients feel better, it will also improve their body and their brain’s restorative processes.

Sleep is more than a time of rest. It’s a vital component of keeping both our body and our brain healthy. Understanding the importance of sleep and working to improve its quality will also improve the quality of our lives.

About the author

Benjamin Lamm is a communication specialist and blogger at Senior Planning Services, an industry leader in guiding seniors and their families through the Medicaid maze. Ben enjoys playing the guitar, spending time with family and social networking.

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