By Karen Kier
Pharmacist on behalf of the UN HealthWise team
The Everly Brothers released their single “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in 1958. This followed their 1957 hit “Wake Up Little Susie”. The songs were written by the prolific duo of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. Legendary Chet Atkins played guitar for The Everly Brothers on both singles. The Everly Brothers were known as an American rock duo and as pioneers of country rock.
“All I Have to Do Is Dream” was the 141st song in the top 500 greatest of all time according to Rolling Stone. The Everly Brothers were inducted into the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2001, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The duo reunited in 1983 and toured with artists such as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The brothers went into the studio to write new music with Sir Paul McCartney, who was a huge fan of their music.
When we sleep, when do we dream?
There are four stages of sleep, including three stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep where the body begins to relax and the heart rate and eye movements slow down. The fourth stage is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. This stage of sleep consolidates memories and where dreams typically occur. A good night’s sleep will go through these four stages. Sleep is an important part of overall health and well-being.
The amount of sleep needed ranges from 14-17 hours for a newborn to 7-8 hours for an older adult. Most teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per day and adults 7-9 hours. Failure to achieve these goals can have adverse health consequences. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep increases the risk of obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and poor mental health.
Scientists have assessed the ability to catch up on sleep when you’ve missed a full night’s sleep. Studies indicate that while it’s possible to catch up on sleep, it’s hard to do. Sleep experts have found that it takes four days to make up for a missed hour of sleep.
So, how about taking a nap to compensate for a lack of sleep at night or to catch up?
If we had asked this question before 2022, experts would have indicated that napping has overall health benefits. More recent evidence suggests that napping may signal other health issues.
Research published by the Alzheimer’s Association has demonstrated a possible link between daytime napping and the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia in older adults. This study followed participants for up to 14 years and monitored their nap frequency using a smartwatch that recorded sleep patterns. When the researchers analyzed the data, two strong relationships were discovered. The more often a person naps during the day was linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. Moreover, the duration of naps during the day reflected the decline in cognitive functions. This study observed behavior over time and was not designed to determine whether napping caused dementia, but rather that napping may indicate other physiological changes caused by cognitive decline.
The American Heart Association (AHA) published a study in the journal Hypertension on July 25, 2022 evaluating nap frequency with health outcomes in middle-aged European participants. The study evaluated 358,451 people with no history of high blood pressure or stroke from a database. Those who usually nap compared to those who never nap had an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
The researchers proposed that the nap itself was not harmful, but the need for the nap due to poor sleep quality was the real problem. This confirms previous studies on the importance of sleep quality.
So, how to improve the quality of sleep?
The AHA has a program called Life’s Simple 7 tool, which is a good educational piece on healthy lifestyles to promote heart health. Based on the science behind the importance of high-quality sleep, the AHA has now changed this to Life’s Essential 8 tool (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8), which includes sleep. The AHA provides great tips for improving sleep quality, including a guide to the essentials of a good nap.
You may have seen TV commercials promoting temperature control in a mattress to improve sleep. Well, a 2022 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that controlling the temperature while we sleep using a dual temperature zone mattress and a selective heat stimulation pillow improved patients’ overall sleep quality. So they have a bit of science behind them, but realize this was only a study of 11 subjects. More science to do!
Remember that napping isn’t bad, rather it can be an indicator of poor sleep quality or a change in cognition. The main thing is to work on the quality of sleep with 7-9 hours of sleep!
Contact a healthcare professional to discuss options for improving sleep quality, including sleep habits and medications. So all you have to do is dream!
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