Special to Iredell Free News

Most all adults have experienced the tiredness and lack of clarity that comes from a sleepless night, but a study published last year by the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology Foundation” found that sleep schedule inconsistency is also a risk factor for heart disease.

Dr. Andrea Wurzer

Dr. Andrea Wurzer, a primary care physician with Davis Medical Group Family Medicine, wants to make sure patients know how important it is to establish a regular pattern for going to bed and waking up.

The cardiovascular system exhibits strong circadian rhythms. Biochemical, physiological and behavioral processes rise and fall during the 24-hour day to maintain normal functioning. The sleep/wake cycle is another circadian rhythm and the study found that individuals with the most irregular sleep duration or timing had more than twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with individuals who had the most regular sleep patterns. Physicians are now more likely to recommend sufficient sleep as a heart health prevention action on top of physical activity and healthy diet.

“The importance of sleep is often overlooked when we think about our health, yet is it crucial to our mental and physical well being,” Wurzer explained. “Sleep allows the body and brain to repair from the day. Poor sleep is linked to multiple medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heat disease, stroke, mental health disorders and poor concentration.

“If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to talk with your primary care provider,” she added.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that adults age 18 to 64 we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and those 65 or older need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Children and younger people have a need for more sleep.

This time is needed so the body can perform a number of vital functions that support the health of your body and brain. Three primary functions are repairing tissue, fighting off infection and processing memories of experiences from your day.

Higher variability in sleep duration or timing is associated with higher blood pressure, dysregulated blood lipids and insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes. Insufficient sleep can affect your body in other ways:
● Immune functioning is compromised as your body produces fewer antibodies so you’re more likely to get sick and the body has fewer resources to stave off illness, including cancers.
● Impulse control and appetite hormones can become unbalanced, promoting overeating and obesity.
● Mental functioning can be less for problem solving, reasoning, organizing, planning and executing plans.
● Learning is affected in all stages – your ability to encode new information, to consolidate and absorb the information and make new connections, and ability to remember and retrieve the information.

Many conditions can cause difficulties sleeping and sleep deprivation, including stress, sleep apnea and chronic insomnia. Insomnia is often a symptom of stress or anxiety disorders that can make it difficult for you to relax enough to fall asleep and sleep soundly. Your physician can help diagnose whether you could benefit from medication or behavioral therapy or if a thorough sleep study is needed.

About Davis Regional Medical Center

Founded in 1920, Davis Regional is a 144-bed, full-service hospital serving Statesville and the surrounding counties. Located off Interstate 40 at Exit 154 in Statesville, Davis Regional offers a wide range of health care services, with more than 300 physicians on staff in a variety of specialty areas. In addition, Davis Regional has been a Joint Commission Top Performing Hospital for the past five consecutive years. Only 1,043 – or approximately one-third – of eligible US hospitals achieved this distinction. Davis Regional is one of just 117 hospitals to have earned this accomplishment for five consecutive years. Learn more at www.DavisRegional.com.