Zzzzzz: Getting a good night's sleep is important for your health

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Not getting enough sleep is one of the things most of us have in common.

For some it's because of a medical disorder, but for most of us, bad habits are to blame.

The good news is that it's usually fixable and it's critical to fix because the sleep you get now can affect your health decades from now.

KBOI went to a Boise sleep clinic and spoke with a doctor who diagnoses sleep problems and outlines treatment for a better night's rest.

"We certainly know that people with sleep deprivation suffer from a whole host of medical conditions," says Dr. Mark Rasmus, a Boise sleep physician at Idaho Sleep Health.

At the sleep facility, technicians attach devices to patients, so their sleep can be monitored in an overnight setting.

Although there can be a medical fix for things like snoring, restless limbs, and even sleep walking, for most of us it comes down to what we're doing instead of what's being done to us.

Caffeine, alcohol, and a constant barrage of electronic information are the key culprits.

"Anything with a flat screen emits blue wave light, and blue wave light is the light in the sun that wakes you up in the morning," Rasmus said. "So I tell people if they're going to limit their screen time, certainly limiting before bedtime is the best option, and if they're going to read in bed using an electronic device, we seem to think that things that are back lit are better than a bright white screen shining in their face."

When it comes to sleeping pills, an occasional one is OK, but continued use could be the sign of a bigger problem.

"If you're needing sleep aids for long periods of time, you wonder what the underlying disorder is," Rasmus said.

The doctor also says a good bed is good, but a good routine is better.

"I think having a comfortable bed is important," he said. "I think the environment is more important in the sense that your cell phone is turned off, and you've got an eight hour period where you're not going to get disturbed and you're going to get a chance to rest without interruptions."

Still, experts say there are some people who do just about everything right and still wake up on the wrong side of the bed from a lack of sleep. That's when it's time to call a doctor.

"The key hallmark should be people that can't fall asleep or stay asleep," Rasmus says. "Or else if you're getting a good night's sleep and don't feel rested in the morning or the following day, those would be things that would be concerning as to a qualitative sleep disorder."

Above all else, don't give up the quest for a good night's rest.

"When push comes to shove, most people can be improved, if not cured of their underlying sleep ailments," says Rasmus.

And here's one reason why good sleep is so important. A new study indicates, during sleep, the brain is busy cleaning house. Researchers took detailed brain scans of mice and discovered brain cells actually shrink during quality, proper sleep allowing the brain to clear-out toxins responsible for Alzheimer's Disease and other disorders.

Doctors believe the same holds true in people.