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The Be Well Podcast - The Importance of Sleep with Nikhil Samtani, MD

Listen in or read from the partial transcript below as Nikhil Samtani, MD, Sleep Medicine provider at Skagit Regional Health discusses the benefits of a good night's sleep, tips on how to get better quality sleep and more. 

Skagit Regional Health - Dr. Samtani

Joey Wahler (Host): Do you get enough sleep at night? If not, how might that affect your health? How can it be assessed and what can be done to get you resting more productively?

This is Be Well with Skagit Regional Health, the podcast brought to you by Skagit Regional Health. Thanks for listening. I am Joey Wahler. Our guest, Dr. Nikhil Samtani, Sleep Medicine provider and Medical Director at the Skagit Valley Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders. Dr. Samtani, thanks for joining us.

Dr. Nikhil Samtani: Thanks for having me.

Joey Wahler (Host): So first, generally speaking, how exactly does sleep or lack thereof impact one's health?

Dr. Nikhil Samtani: Oh, in multiple ways, I would say because, if you just think about it from a big picture perspective, we spend about eight hours sleeping generally. So that's almost a third of our lives. If you have issues with that third of your life, it's going to spill out to so many different facets of what we do. Compared to a lot of other specialties that have had decades and decades of research, sleep is still a relatively new field. So every single year, we learn more about kind of the importance of sleep and how it impacts certain organ systems.

But just to understand what lack of sleep does to us, it's important to understand what is normally happening when we sleep. So when we think about what happens when we sleep a little bit, we go into these lighter stages of sleep. We go into a deep sleep. We go into REM sleep. Anyone with a sort of a Fitbit or a sleep tracker will have these familiar terms. But what our body generally does is it slows down, you know? So in our light stages of sleep, our heart rate slows and our breathing slows. In the deeper stages of sleep is when we have a lot of tissue repair and growth and sort of cell regeneration or immune system strengthens. REM sleep is kind of essential to memory, learning and creativity. So these are core functions that happen almost during a third of our life and not having enough time or poor sleep quality can spill out on so many different things, not just your overall health, but your mental health, your focus, and a bunch of other stuff as well.

Joey Wahler (Host): And health-wise, what would be a couple of examples of things that people might suffer from if they're not sleeping enough?

Dr. Nikhil Samtani: When we look at what we do in the sleep medicine world, we do sleep deprivation studies. So, once we understand the importance of sleep, let's just take it away and kind of see what happens. So most studies, what they find when we have sleep deprivation, which is defined as five or under hours of sleep, healthiest person on planet earth, no problems whatsoever, fit as a fiddle, just simply getting insufficient sleep is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, for example. And again, going back to what our body does when we sleep, so it just kind of gives our body term to heal and recover. So cardiac health is a big one.

For me, I think the other two that I like to focus on are memory and focus as well. Sleep plays such a critical role in memory. And so there are these immensely complex processes that happen in our brain when we sleep that are still being studied. And it's thought that it takes almost 30 minutes of sleep to process for every hour that we're awake. It's easy to understand the idea that, if we don't sleep well on Monday night, for example, Tuesday is going to be bad. We've all been there. But what I find fascinating is if you don't get sleep on Monday night, it's not just Tuesday, but stuff that you learned on Sunday or the week before, that's also going to be affected because there are these memory processes like consolidation and recall that occur when we sleep. And not getting enough, certainly plays a role in that as well.

To listen to the rest of the podcast or read the full transcript, visit here.