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Good Sleep

This information provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. The information is NOT a substitute for you visiting your doctor. However, as Medical Science is constantly changing and human error is always possible, the authors, editors, and publisher of this information do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of this information nor are they responsible for omissions or errors as a result of using this information.

Sweet Dreams

Sleep is the easiest way to boost your mind, body and spirit. This article explains the importance of a good night's kip.

Whether you wake up frequently at night, or have problems getting to sleep in the first place, not getting a good night's sleep can quickly have a negative effect - you'll become tired, irritable, unable to concentrate or perform properly.

Sleep deprivation can also have serious implications for others, too - 20mper cent of motorway accidents are caused by sleepy drivers. In fact, going without sleep for 20 hours has the same effect on driving as having a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

The function of sleep
Sleeping is our body's downtime and is vital to our physical functioning and emotional stability. Missing a night's sleep doesn't have too much effect on us the next day, but over a longer term, sleep deprivation can weaken your imune system and lead to a loss of stamina as well as serious physical problems such as hormone imbalance, high blood pressure and obesity. It can also speed up the aging process and cause a dip in your sex drive. Get a good night's sleep, however, and you'll look better for it - new cells are produced to revitalise your skin, and the proteins in your brain and eyes are replaced faster. Sleep actually involves two distinct states: non rapid eye movement (NREM), when your brain and body are quiet, and rapid eye movement (REM), when your brain is active but the body virtually paralised. A good night's sleep usually consist of four complete cycles of NREM sleep, while dreaming takes place during the REM phase. It's thought that sleep is triggered by the hormone melatonin, produced naturally by the pineal gland in response to daylight levels.

Are you getting enough?
There's no hard and fast rule, but on average an adult under 60 years old requires seven to eight hours of sleep a night to allow the body to rest and recuperate. Feeling tired the next day could be just a temporary glitch, but if you are feeling really sleppy, there might just be underlying problems. The difference to look out for is a feeling of abnormal drowsiness - you want to shut your eyes, and tend to drop off while watching TV or sitting in a car, for example. Depending on the severity of sleepiness, a sleep disorder could be diagnosed. Insomnia could be caused by many different things depression, stress and anxiety, physical pain, a cold or noisy bedroom , or shift work- but is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. sedatives can help temporary sleep disturbances caused by specific stresses such as impending exams, deadlines and bereavements, but they aren't a long-term solution.

7 Steps to sweet slumber
If you're having trouble dropping off, try these tips to get some quality sleep:
  • Relax! Don't lie in bed worrying about problems, especially not sleeping. Take a relaxing bath, make sure your mattress is comfortable and your bedroom cool, dark and well aired.
  • Take regular exercise to improve your general wellbeing, but don't do anything strenous late in the evening as this will overheat your body and delay sleep.
  • Lay off the alcohol - you might think it gets you to sleep but anything more than the equivalent of two small glasses of wine will disturb your natural rhythms.
  • Don't eat dinner after 8pm - if you do feel hungry, have a high-carbonhydrate snack such as a slice of toast. This will increase your levels of serotonin, which is known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
  • Keep the bedroom an oasis of calm for sleep - remove computers and any unnecessary clutter.
  • Avoids stimulants like nicotine or caffeine - swap your coffee and cigarette for camomile tea. The effects of caffeine can last for up to 20 hours.
  • Don't lie in bed fretting over not sleeping - if you don't drop off after 30 minutes, get up, move to another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
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Last modified October 2015