web analytics

Sleep, Health And Women

Sleep is a biological need modern men and women take for granted. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, underscores the impact of a fast-paced lifestyle to our physical and mental health. In her bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution, Huffington calls for the “renewal of our relationship with sleep” to “take back control of our lives.”

“The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today’s world—that it can come only through burnout and stress—along with the distractions and temptations of a 24/7 wired world, has imperiled our sleep as never before,” Huffington wrote.

Health and sleep: What you need to know
Photo courtesy of skeeze via Pixabay

Harvard Medical School highlights the benefits of sleep. Sufficient sleep plays an important role in learning and the consolidation of memory. New information is introduced to the brain during wakefulness, and studies show that memory consolidation happen during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form memories. Meanwhile, insufficient sleep has been linked to several diseases including obesity, diabetes, health disease and hypertension, mood disorders, and poor immune function.

How much sleep do you need?
Photo courtesy of 1767892 via Pixabay

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an adult aged 18 to 64 must be getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Older people aged 65 and above are recommended seven to eight hours of nighttime shuteye. However, Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, associate professor at The Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said that “we don’t yet know.” It’s possible that you feel energized after sleeping for less than seven hours, but your metabolic needs have not been met.

Are you getting “enough” sleep?
Photo courtesy of Unsplash via Pixabay

A hunter in the prehistoric period require different amount of sleep compared to a factory worker during the industrial revolution. The type of society, which has a distinct lifestyle, affects the definition of “adequate” sleep. The modern era has given birth to technological advancements that promote a “sleepless lifestyle.” People have acquired the need to be constantly connected via their smartphones, tablets, and computers. There’s a guilt for not working hard enough and not being awake long enough.

Do you sleep for the same number of hours on weekdays and weekends? Do you wake up without an alarm clock? Do you not need stimulants like caffeine to keep you awake? Do you not fall asleep within five minutes or in other non-stimulating conditions? Are you healthy? If you answer affirmatively to all the above, you’re likely getting enough sleep per night.

Women vs. Men: Who need more sleep?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay via Pexels

A study by Duke Medical Center suggested that women need more sleep than men. The researchers surveyed 210 middle-aged men and women about their sleeping habits. The study participants were “apparently healthy,” non-smokers, and had no history of sleep disorders. Aside from answering a standardized sleep-quality questionnaire, the participants had their blood samples taken for any sign of increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The findings showed that about 40 percent of the participants were classified as poor sleepers. “Poor sleepers” were those taking at least 30 minutes to fall asleep or waking up frequently at night. The female poor sleepers had higher levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger. “In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men,” lead author and associate professor Edward Suarez said.

To be clear, the above study suggested a gendered difference not in the need for sleep, but in the harm caused by sleep deprivation. In a press release, Duke University said: “Their study, appearing online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, found that poor sleep is associated with greater psychological distress and higher levels of biomarkers associated with elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also found that these associations are significantly stronger in women than in men.”

Sleep is unique among women
Photo courtesy of Unsplash via Pexels

The UCLA Sleep Disorders Center said that a woman’s sleep is unique because of the changes in her body and hormones. During her menstrual cycle, a woman can suffer great discomfort that disrupt her sleep. Some report waking up many more times at night, others report dreaming more often. There are also those who feel worn out and drowsy in the morning.

Sleep can be a challenge during pregnancy. Most expecting mothers feel the need to sleep longer due to higher levels of the hormone progesterone. In the last stages of pregnancy, a woman may experience a decrease in the amount of deep sleep and an increased number of sleep disruptions. “Women may find that it is hard to sleep in some positions. The amount of time that they are actually asleep at night decreases,” according to UCLA.

Sleep for women before and after menopause can also be problematic. The duration of their deep sleep decreases, sleep becomes lighter, and they wake up more often at night. These are attributed to the gradual change in their hormone levels.

Improve your sleep habits
Photo courtesy of Unsplash via Pexels

Your sleep disorder may be caused by a number of factors. It may due to an underlying medical condition, your sleeping environment or your lifestyle. A large part of the problem may be blamed on your diet, lack of physical activities, and vices. Caffeine and stimulants taken near your bedtime can disrupt your sleep, as well as unregulated use of electronic devices.

Our addiction to connectivity is also affecting our sleeping patterns. “Humans are social creatures—we’re hardwired to connect. Even when we’re not actually connecting digitally, we’re in a constant state of heightened anticipation. And always being in this state doesn’t exactly put us in the right frame of mind to wind down when it’s time to sleep,” Huffington shared.

It’s time to change our mindset regarding sleep. We should stop the misplaced mentality that it is a luxury. Sleep is one of the foundations of our health, together with nutrition and exercise. The next time you hear someone say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” you can remind that person that sleep deprivation can in fact lead to premature death.