The ZZZs That Lead to Good Health

Restful, adequate sleep may play a role in health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sleep may make you feel better, but its importance may also go beyond just boosting mood or banishing under-eye circles.

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) has just released new guidelines on sleep.

"Sleep plays a vital role in human health, yet there is a lack of sufficient guidance on promoting good sleep health," said Sutapa Mukherjee, PhD, the chair of the committee that produced the statement, in a press release.

According to the statement, poor sleep — defined as less than six hours or more than nine hours of sleep a night — may lead to health problems. These health problems may include less efficient immunity to disease and memory loss. Consistent poor sleep may also increase the risk of death, according to the statement.

Many people don’t know how important sleep is when it comes to health, and many people don't get the right amount of sleep, Dr. Mukherjee and team wrote. Children and teens also need different amounts and types of sleep than adults, and many don't get the sleep that helps them function best.

The American Thoracic Society released these guidelines based on the findings of past studies on sleep and the advice of a panel of doctors who specialize in sleep health.

Dr. Mukherjee and colleagues urged less drowsiness behind the wheel. They cited a high number of car accidents caused by sleepy drivers and called for more education about the dangers of driving when tired.

Dr. Mukherjee and colleagues said schools should have later start times for teens. This is because this age group has a different sleep pattern than adults — teens tend to fall asleep later and usually need to sleep later in the day.

The authors noted that children need to be taught that it's important to go to bed on time, and that they should be allowed to sleep until they wake up naturally.

The authors called for more education on sleep hygiene and noted the need for doctors to encourage proper sleep without the use of sedatives. Doctors also need to be more aware of sleep disorders, such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to Dr. Mukherjee and colleagues.

OSA is a condition in which a patient's throat muscles keep opening and closing during sleep. This interrupts breathing and may lead to restless sleep or snoring. Insomnia is a disorder marked by trouble falling and/or staying asleep.

Also, Dr. Mukherjee and colleagues noted that professional transportation operators must learn about sleep disorders and the drugs that can reduce alertness.

"We as health care providers have an important role in educating our colleagues and our patients about the importance of sleep,” Dr. Mukherjee and team wrote.

This statement was published June 15 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The American Thoracic Society funded this research.

The authors disclosed many conflicts of interest. Study author Dr. Sanjay Patel was a consultant to Apnex Medical. Study author Dr. Kingman Strohl was the president of ONSLEEP.

Review Date: 
June 12, 2015
Last Updated:
June 18, 2015