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Why you need to make time for sleep

Health & Fitness

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This story is brought to you by Grand Peaks Medical and Dental, a multi-specialty, nonprofit community health center in St. Anthony and Rexburg.

Phil Wells almost lost his life because someone fell asleep at the wheel.

In fact, his wife was almost killed too.

The newly married couple from Idaho were going to school in Utah years ago and decided to help a friend who wanted a ride down to Phoenix so he could visit his family before the new semester started.

Wells figured the trio could leave Friday after work in his new Pinto Ford, be in Phoenix by Saturday morning, and be back home by Monday morning in time for class.

“Perfect timing, we thought,” Wells said, adding that about five years before, he and a friend had driven to Washington, D.C., from Idaho in just 36 hours. “I thought it would be fun to go see Phoenix since I had never been there before, and he (my friend) would pay the cost of gas.”

However, the trip almost cost the three their lives.

Around 5 a.m. that Saturday, they were on the freeway just past the Utah/Arizona line, and their friend fell asleep at the wheel. The Pinto rolled three times down an embankment.

Everyone survived, but Wells and his wife were badly hurt. Wells broke his jaw, and his wife received severe injuries to her shoulder and back, which still bother her to this day.

Sleep — it’s not just for road trips

Sleep is essential to a person’s overall health, but it’s also usually one of the first things to go in our everyday, busy lives. Take a look at four reasons for getting a good night’s rest.

Lack of good sleep can contribute to obesity

People who don’t get enough sleep are often overweight. In fact, lack of adequate sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by changing the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates. The deprivation can also alter levels of hormones that affect our appetite, causing us to eat more.

Sleep is nothing to sneeze at

The dreaded cold season is here, but did you know that not getting roughly eight hours of sleep a night can make us more susceptible to colds? Studies are plentiful for the connections between sleep and your immune system. Lack of sleep can decrease your chances of fighting off infection. In fact, three separate studies show that sleeping five hours or fewer a night can increase mortality rates by 15 percent.

Poor sleep linked to depression

If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you may be extra irritable the next day. Sleep loss can result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness. Insufficient sleep or interrupted sleep can also lead to depression or anxiety, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

However, the good news is that these are treatable. Talk to your doctor right away if you feel like these conditions are preventing you from getting a good night’s rest.

A good night’s sleep can boost your work productivity

Sleep is vital for brain function. A study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed that people with moderate to severe insomnia experienced more than half productivity loss compared to someone without insomnia. It wasn’t just insomnia that affected people in the study. A host of problems were discovered with people who didn’t sleep well the night before, including snorers (a sign of sleep apnea), who experienced 19 to 34 percent in productivity loss.

“Many people believe that in order to get more done, they need to sacrifice sleep,” said senior author Michael Grandner, PHD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. “This study shows that, quite to the contrary, poor sleep is associated with lower productivity in general, and specifically across a wide range of areas.”

How precious is sleep?

Sleep is priceless, Dr. Jacob Curtis with Grand Peaks Medical and Dental said.

“Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity,” Curtis said. “It is a time of rest and restoration and renewal. It is a time of energy conservation and cognitive maintenance. It is also a period of time appointment for brain processing and memory consolidation.”

Wells learned the importance of sleep the hard way.

“It only takes once,” Wells said. “Sleep is so important, especially when you are behind the wheel of a car – it isn’t worth putting your life and anyone who is on the road with you at risk.”