For years your doctor, your mom and your friend who goes to the gym multiple times a week have probably been telling you to eat better and exercise more. It’s all you hear on television, in the newspapers and on talk radio. New doctors and dieticians usher in new diets, new fads, and so you’ve made some lifestyle changes – cutting back on your fat and sweets intake, and doing some cardiovascular exercise a few days a week. Despite all this, you still feel burned out, can’t drop those extra pounds, and don’t have the energy to greet each day with enthusiasm. What are you missing?
Though the exact mechanisms of how sleep works, how sleep rejuvenates the body and mind is still mysterious, one thing sleep specialists and scientists do know is that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning. Research shows that all mammals need sleep, and that sleep regulates mood and is related to learning and memory functions. Not only will getting your zzzs help you perform on a test, learn a new skill or help you stay on task, but it may also be a critical factor in your health, weight and energy level.
An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder that leads individuals to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. Not only does sleep apnea seriously affect one’s quality of sleep, but it can also lead to health risks such as stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure and excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is often associated with people who are overweight – weight gain leads to compromised respiratory function when an individual’s trunk and neck area increase from weight gain. These interacting problems of weight gain and sleep apnea make it difficult to help oneself off the slippery slope of health problems. From a behavioral perspective, those suffering from sleep apnea may be less motivated to diet or exercise – daytime sleepiness lowers their energy levels and makes it difficult to commit to an exercise and/or diet program