Start year with vow to sleep it off

First Posted: 12/31/2014

Without realizing it, you may have already broken your New Year’s resolution to live a more healthy lifestyle in 2015.

It is all about sleep, or the lack there of.

No matter what your age, sacrificing the hours you sleep by staying up late at night has a negative effect on your body. So, if you watched that ball drop last night and got up early this morning, you’ve already had that first strike called against you in your efforts to be the Fitness Queen or King. Strike two could come as early as tonight for those of you planning to stay up late tonight to watch the Buckeyes.

The key factor in the lack of sleep is a person’s age. What the lack of sleep does to a teenager’s mind and body is very different from what it does to an adults, said Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

“We often pay for the lack of sleep in ways we may not realize,” said Das. “Depending on your age, it can affect everything from your complexion to your weight to your heart, and can lead to some very serious medical issues.”

For children, the lack of sleep can cause behavior problems. “They can have trouble focusing and learning and it can affect their immune systems,” said Das, noting “chronic tiredness makes it harder to cope and process what’s going on around you.”

The lack of sleep becomes a bigger issue for teenagers. Das says a teen’s circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, tells them to stay awake later and sleep later than children and adults do. She says only 15 percent of teenagers get the recommended sleep they need.

“Sleep is time the body uses to restore itself. Muscles and other tissues repair themselves, hormones that control growth, development and appetite are released. Energy is restored and memories are solidified, so we need to try to get regular sleep on a regular basis,” Das said.

For adults, sleep loss is even more serious. It accumulates over the years and has been shown to contribute to several chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and obesity.

Adulthood is also when sleep-related disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, are more likely. During menopause, women often experience night sweats and insomnia due to changing levels of hormones. As men age, an enlarged prostate can lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom overnight. Certain medications can also disrupt sleep, such as those for heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure and asthma.

How much sleep is needed?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following hours of sleep we should get throughout our lifetime:

• Infants: up to 16 hours total, including naps

• Toddlers (1-3 yrs): 12-14 hours, including naps

• Preschool (3-5 yrs): 11-13 hours, most do not nap after age 5

• School-age (5-12 yrs): 10-11 hours

• Teens: 8.5-9.5 hours

• Adults: 7-9 hours

Getting a good night’s sleep

To improve the chances of getting a good night’s sleep, Das offers a few tips: don’t perform vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime; have a wind down routine that includes dim light; avoid using tablets, phones and laptops before bed because they emit blue light that interferes with sleep; try a warm bath two hours before bedtime and beware of sleep aid medications because they can have side effects.