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Sleep Deprivation: A Deeper Dive Into Clinical Screenings, Mitochondrial Impact, and Therapeutic Interventions

Monday, November 30th 2020 1:08am 6 min read
The Institute for Functional Medicine instituteforfxmed

We inspire practitioners to rediscover their passion for medicine and patients to take active ownership of their health through Functional Medicine.

Sleep is essential for mental, physical, and emotional well-being. In addition, adequate sleep promotes healthy immune function by bolstering the body’s response to stress, helping to fight off possible infection, and potentially minimizing the risk of illness. Even with the demonstrated value of sleep, nearly one-third of adults in the United States report short sleep, or sleeping less than seven hours per night.1 An increasing trend of self-reported short sleep notably started in 2013, and this trend was more pronounced among African-American and Hispanic adults.1 In 2018, however, the National Sleep Foundation’s survey suggested a potentially positive trend. While sleep duration reporting was consistent with previous results, sleep quality showed some improvement, with an increased number of people feeling well-rested.2

While there are indications that more US adults have an increased awareness of sleep’s benefits for better health,2 for some patients, sleep quality and habits are not ideal, and they may feel tired throughout their day. And fatigue isn’t the only consequence of a poor night’s sleep. Adults who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to report 10 chronic health conditions, including depression, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma.3

Understanding a patient’s sleep quality is an important part of clinical screening to ultimately help a patient adopt healthy sleep habits and to address health concerns associated with a sleep dysfunction. In the following video, IFM educator Kristi Hughes, ND, IFMCP, shares her methods for conducting a deeper dive assessment into a patient’s sleep history, quality, and needs.

Kristi Hughes, ND, IFMCP talks about the methods and tools she uses to help her patients understand their sleep quality and needs, and to address health concerns associated with sleep dysfunction.

A deeper dive into the cellular level – mitochondria

Over the past several years, researchers have begun to examine what happens at a cellular level when the body is deprived of sleep. Some studies suggest a connection between limited sleep and oxidative stress, pointing to mitochondria as a possible target of the physiological effects of sleep deprivation.4,5

Mitochondria, the cellular source of energy production, play an important role in cellular energy metabolism and homeostasis via generation of several metabolites, including ATP. Acute and chronic stressors influence various aspects of mitochondrial biology, and chronic stress exposure can lead to molecular and functional recalibrations among mitochondria.6 Mitochondria have a potential role at two levels: as a target of stress and as a mediator of stress pathophysiology,6 suggesting that

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