Elham Rezvanian, MD

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Sleeping Soundly?

Written by Dr Elham Rezvanian and Allegra Antwine, published in the June issue of NW Military.

Sleeping soundly? How not getting enough zzz’s can negatively impact work performance

Sleep deprivation is no joke; with consequences relative to both personal health and work performance, the issue of not getting enough sleep is one that should be taken seriously. Dr. Elham Rezvanian, who specializes in neurology and sleep medicine has been in the medical field for 15 years, and with Pacific Medical Centers since August of 2013. Having experience with sleep related disorders and tendencies, the Dr. Rezvanian breaks down the cyclitic ramifications of sleep and the effects it has on military members.

What is the official definition of sleep deprivation?

We need to feel refreshed when we wake up in the morning in order to function properly. Keeping this in mind, the general definition of sleep deprivation is when someone regularly and routinely sleeps less than the amount of hours that is required for feeling refreshed for optimum functioning.

Is it classified as a disorder?

It is not classified as a disorder, but sleep deprivation is more of a misbehavior that can actually lead to many other disorders.

What is the importance of obtaining enough sleep for military personnel and people in general?

We need to sleep enough to have normal cognitive and psychological function. That includes: short-term memory, decision making, attention levels, logical reasoning, judgement, mood, and energy levels. We need to sleep enough in order to have a better quality of life. People who are sleep deprived constantly complain about not having any energy or being tired for certain activities, so they are not really enjoying their life to the greatest capacity; their life quality is poor. It’s also important to get enough sleep to maintain a healthy cardiovascular and immune system in order to avoid risks of hypertension, heart attacks and general sickness. Healthy levels of sleep also aid in improving metabolism; diabetes and obesity are more common in those who are sleep deprived. Sleep really does effect everything in one’s life.

How has sleep deprivation proven to impact work performance?

Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of accidents and work-related errors due to slower reaction times. The result of this is that it takes longer for them to respond to stimuli, and that can in turn increase the number of safety violations. It impacts concentration, multitasking abilities and tardiness and absences from work.

What are some of the negative repercussions of sleep deprivation in the military?

Specific to the military, people need a high level of vigilance in order to cope with hostile environments, operating conflict systems, participating in detailed mission planning and specific motor skills for sharp shooting. The consequences of deprivation are actually greater in the military than in the civilian community because they [military members] are risking their lives. Because of this, they need to have sound judgement, decision-making skills, and good levels of attention and concentration.

How many hours of sleep per night would you recommend for the average adult?

For the average adult, we do recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night. There are people who can run on less and those who need to sleep longer, but since the definition of getting a good night’s sleep means feeling refreshed, it can vary. Someone may sleep for nine hours but not feel refreshed when they wake up, they are not functional and should therefore aim for more hours of sleep, perhaps 10. We leave the decision to the patient to decide what is best for them, but as stated, the main goal is to awake feeling refreshed. It is normal to feel groggy at first, but this feeling should go away within 10 -- or maximum of 15 -- minutes.

What are some ways for people to ensure they receive the adequate amount of sleep?

The best thing is to be highly functional; to not feel fatigued or tired and to not fall asleep unintentionally throughout the day. To feel refreshed, it is important to have a regulated sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is imperative to this. Some military personnel have to be up very early or go to sleep very late, and for those people we highly recommend scheduled 20 minute naps, perhaps two to three of them a day.

What positive aspects are incorporated into work performance when people are getting the right amount of sleep on a nightly basis?

It’s been proven to increase efficiency and multitasking. When you’re not sleep deprived, you’re at you optimum functioning levels -- this saves you time and energy as you no longer have to repeat tasks due to doing them correctly the first time.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about sleep deprivation and how it affects quality of work?

I want people to consider the importance of having good sleep hygiene. Many times, sleep deprivation does happen because of work but there are other behaviors that can cause this. Watching TV, looking at our cell phones, texting, being on the computer -- these are the behaviors that lead to sleep deprivation and a poor quality of sleep. I want people to focus on having a regular sleep schedule as well as associating their bedrooms with sleep in order to improve their overall level of sleep hygiene.

Dr. Elham Rezvanian, MD, practices sleep medicine and neurology at Pacific Medical Centers in its Beacon Hill, Northgate, Renton and Diagnostic Center for Sleep Health clinics.