lack of sleep

  1. Poor sleep linked to hypertension

    If you're battling blood pressure problems, you don't need another med -- you just need better sleep... and that doesn't necessarily mean more sleep.

    "Better" sleep is slow-wave sleep -- the deep sleep that helps to refresh our bodies and restore our minds. And now, a new study finds that people who miss out on it aren't just tired, forgetful, and irritable -- they have a dramatically higher risk of hypertension, too.

    Researchers checked the BP levels and monitored the sleep habits of 784 senior men on two occasions, three and a half years apart.

    They found that men who spend less than 4 percent of the night in slow-wave sleep were 83 percent more likely to develop hypertension between the two tests than men who spend at least 17 percent of the night locked inside that deepest of slumbers.

    The men who got the low-quality sleep were also more likely to get less overall sleep, wake up more often, and even suffer from sleep apnea.

    So how much quality sleep are you getting? There's no way to know for sure without spending a night in a sleep lab. But one way you can tell on your own, right now, is to just see how you feel in the morning.

    If you wake up feeling lousy, odds are you're not getting enough. Poor sleep can do so much more than raise your blood pressure. Lack of sleep and low-quality rest can boost the odds of everything from cognitive decline to an early death.

    You definitely don't want any part of that – but don't rush off to your doctor and beg him for sleep meds, either, because there are natural solutions that can help you to get the best rest of your life.

    One recent study found that seniors can overcome sleep problems with the help of talk therapy in as little as two in-person sessions and two follow-up phone calls. (Read about it here.)

    Other studies have found that you can get relief by making simple lifestyle adjustments -- like cutting back on late-day caffeine -- or easy nutritional additions, such as a calcium and magnesium supplement before bedtime.

    For more on the risks of sleepless nights -- and how to beat them -- read this.

  2. Why your doctor needs more sleep

    How sharp would you be after 28 hours without sleep? If your answer is "not very," you're like most people.

    Doctors are like most people, too, once you take away the white coats, stethoscopes, and medical degrees -- but they're routinely scheduled for those infamous 28-hour shifts during their residencies.

    Earlier this month, new rules kicked in that are supposed to limit shifts to 16 hours -- but don't celebrate this as a victory for common sense.

    In reality, it's going to be business as usual at most hospitals.

    Not only are 16-hour shifts ludicrously long on their own, but the new rules only require a five-hour nap at the end of them.

    After that, young docs better stock up on coffee and Red Bull -- because they're back on the clock for yet another double shift.

    Even worse, the rules only apply to first-year residents. In years two and beyond, those 28-hour shifts are still perfectly acceptable.

    So much for change.

    Now, a group of leading doctors and patient safety experts are calling for stricter limits, writing in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep that all residents should be limited to between 12 and 16 hours.

    It's a common-sense approach that acknowledges the reality that some 180,000 patients are killed every year by medical mistakes -- and that many of those errors are committed by sleepy docs.

    At one conference held last year, 26 experts agreed that humans simply can't function with a clear head after 16 straight hours of work. Other studies have found that lack of sleep can have the same effect on skills and judgment as a night of drinking.

    And in other industries where public safety is on the line, there are strict limits in place. Truck drivers, for example, are only allowed to operate for 11 hours after 10 hours of rest.

    Pilots are only allowed to fly for 12 hours in any 24-hour period.

    But docs can keep right on slicing, zapping, diagnosing, and prescribing well beyond the established limits of human endurance.

    And if that's not enough to keep you up at night, consider this: It would cost hospitals about $1.7 billion to hire enough doctors to allow everyone to get the sleep they need.

    With that kind of money on the line, you can see why there's no rush to change the system.

  3. Wake-up call for surgeons

    Picture this: You're about to go under the knife for a non-emergency procedure, and just as you're given the anesthesia, the surgeon delivers a quick message: "Umm... I know this probably isn't the best time to mention this, but I was up all night doing emergency work and I am plum tuckered out."
  4. What's keeping you up at night?

    Two new studies show the problems of chronic sleeplessness can run far deeper, as insomniacs are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and have increased thoughts of suicide.

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