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Ester Marsh column: Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of trouble

Sleep deprivation does more than “just” making you sleepy.

It’s amazing how your body reacts when you do not get enough sleep. Being perimenopausal is challenging in sleeping through the night. If I don’t get up to go pee or wake up with night sweats, I sometimes just wake up worrying about anything or nothing at all! I know how important sleep is, so I make sure I try to get at least 8 hours of “rest” — sleeping with interruptions can become quite frustrating. The more tired you are, the more determined you are to try to go to sleep, the harder you try, the more awake you become and the vicious cycle continues. One major thing I practice for a good night’s sleep is to wind down after a day at the YMCA. I am so geared up with my job that it takes me a while to settle down. Fortunately, both my husband and I get up early, so we typically start our bedtime routine at 9 p.m. As I stated — it is a routine to get our bodies and minds ready to sleep. We do it all the time with our little babies — keep them on a nighttime routine to get them to sleep when they need to, but somehow we stray away from it when we get older. I go to sleep easily, it’s waking up in the middle of the night and going back to sleep that has been getting challenging the older I get. Fortunately, I have found some ways that work to get me back to sleep. Besides breathing deeply and trying to relax my body and mind, I make up new workouts for my classes. I’m not sure if my class participants are as excited about it, but so far it seems to work for me. I guess it tires me out and gets me back to sleep. All kidding aside, sleep is so important for good health. Looking at all kinds of research, the following are the most common side effects for sleep deprivation:

• It can cause accidents. Sleep deprivation is a factor in many vehicle accidents and work-related accidents because your motor skills are off and you can’t think or react quickly on a sleep-deprived brain.

• Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Without it, it makes it more difficult.

• It can lead to serious health problems. As you sleep, your body is fully recovering, restoring and

re-energizing.

• Research states that the lack of sleep lowers the libido in both women and men, creating less interest in sex.

• Over time, sleep deprivation can contribute to depression.

• With a lack of sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can break down the protein in your skin that keeps it young and healthy looking

 With the increase in cortisol, your body tends to gain weight in certain places but sleep deprivation also triggers cravings for high fat, high carbohydrate food. Your body needs to get energy from somewhere — if it is not getting it from sleep, it will try to get it from food.

• You get sick more often because your immune system suffers with sleep deprivation. Poor sleeping habits lower your body’s defenses against viruses and other ailments.

If you are someone who deals with sleepless nights all the time, please check with your doctor. Just because you got used to it, does not mean it’s the right thing to do. Your body needs sleep for a healthy body, mind and spirit. Until next week, “night night.”

Ester H Marsh Associate executive Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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