This article originally appeared in the
Oxford Health & Life Winter 2016 Edition
You roll over one way and then the other. But you can't get comfortable. You check the clock to see what time it is. Perhaps you read some of the book on your nightstand, hoping to drift off. But it doesn't work. You check the clock again and realize you have to get up in just a short while. So you just lie there in the dark and wonder how you'll make it through your day without any sleep.
In our fast-paced era, it's an all-too familiar situation. And if it becomes an ongoing challenge, the consequences to your health can be significant. "During quality sleep, there is restoration of both mind and body. It is during sleep that our memories are stored, our hearts can rest, muscles and tissues are repaired, and various hormones are released," says Shayla L. Pullen, M.D. "Therefore, sleep is what keeps our bodies in perfect balance, and without it systems begin to break down, causing a domino effect that then puts unhealthy stress on the body and all its systems." Specializing in sleep medicine for six years, Dr. Pullen knows what she's talking about.
In her role at
McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital | TriHealth
, Dr. Pullen deals with sleep disturbances and disorders that include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, hypersomnia, parasomnias, circadian rhythm disorders, REM behavior disorder, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and restless legs. But, she says, "Technology is by far the biggest offender in preventing patients from getting enough sleep. Cell phones, iPads, computers and televisions coupled with an unstructured sleep routine are a recipe for disaster. None of these items should ever enter the bedroom."
Rosemarie Gutowski had long-standing and complex sleep problems, and had been diagnosed with narcolepsy (extreme daytime sleepiness and irresistible bouts of sleep) in 1969. "It was very discouraging to not have an effective plan of treatment, because it affected my quality of life for so many years in a very negative way," she says. "So I have a long history of minimally effective treatment for narcolepsy, which I was resigned to accept as my only option for many years." Finally, though, she found Dr. Pullen.
"She was pleasant, friendly and thorough, answering my questions and taking time to listen to my concerns," Rosemarie says. "Medications and a BiPAP machine have improved my sleep dramatically. Now I sleep longer, and I awake feeling more rested and alert." And that's a good thing, because according to Dr. Pullen, just a few of the problems that can arise from not sleeping enough include a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, memory problems and Type 2 diabetes.
As for Rosemarie, she urges others with sleep problems to get help. "I would tell people there's no reason to ignore such an important part of your life," she says. "I might start to give them a lecture on how important sleep is to your overall health, especially your heart and brain. But then I would say, 'If you want to feel better, run! Do not walk! Do not pass Go! Make an appointment with Dr. Pullen without delay.'"