Healthy Sleep, Healthy Aging: The importance of sleep

Sleep is one of the three pillars of good health, along with diet and exercise. In a culture that works 24/7, sleeping can seem like a low priority. Yet, around the world, there are researchers, physicians, mental health workers and even dentists who regularly see the effects of poor sleep. The sleep medicine community is hoping we will all place sleep at the top of our priority lists.

Rochester is home to World Sleep Society, an international nonprofit that aims to better sleep health worldwide by connecting sleep researchers and practitioners from around the world to push research forward. World Sleep Society routinely joins people from more than 70 countries to compare and communicate the current research in the fast-paced field of sleep medicine.


Friday, March 15, 2019, the world will unite for a one-day awareness event aimed to put a spotlight on healthy sleep and its overall importance. World Sleep Society hosts this day to help the public understand that sleep is not something that should be overlooked.

Angie Granum, who has been working at World Sleep Society since 2013, says, “In the past six years, I have watched World Sleep Day grow from a couple participants to literally hundreds. If you search the news, you will find articles about sleep in every major news source. We have loved watching the sleep field’s growth. We hope by bringing awareness to the benefits of maintaining healthy sleep, more people will realize it’s just as important as what you eat or how much you work out.”


In Rochester, we are fortunate to have two accredited sleep centers, as well as other nonaccredited sleep sites. The Center for Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Minnesota is one of the largest sleep medicine facilities in the United States. The staff at the Center for Sleep Medicine treat around 6,500 sleep disorder patients each year. The center offers a 24-bed facility for overnight sleep studies (polysomnograms).

One common, treatable sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA can be treated, yet many sufferers do not seek medical assistance for this common disorder. Dr. Melissa C. Lipford says of her sleep research at Mayo Clinic, “Most of my research involves the intersections between sleep and neurology. One of my research studies involved investigating the relationship between breathing problems during sleep and strokes. We found that irregular heart rhythms are implicated in most people with sleep apnea who suffer strokes. This finding might help us in learning why people with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for having a stroke and may even help us toward preventing recurrent strokes in patients with sleep apnea.” Another recent Mayo Clinic news release noted that hot flashes and night sweats could be connected to a higher OSA risk in middle-aged women.

Olmsted Medical Center (OMC) also has an accredited sleep program that includes a sleep lab. OMC’s sleep medicine program assesses and diagnoses patients though sleep studies or wearable devices to track sleep.

World Sleep Society notes that of the 94 classified sleep disorders, most are preventable or treatable yet only one-third of people seek treatment. World Sleep Day is the perfect time to celebrate the importance of healthy sleep.

Improve your sleep quality and quantity to:

• Improve physical, cognitive and emotional health

• Reduce the risk of obesity and high blood pressure

• Protect against age-related cognitive decline

• Decrease rates of depression

• Reduce signs of aging in facial skin and tissue tone

Gina Dewink is a communications specialist and writer devoted to spreading awareness about the importance of sleep.