Lack of Sleep: How Women Can Improve Their Sleep
I love a good night’s sleep. I find that I function so much better during the day when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it’s the difference between a good day and a bad one.
Sleep is an integral part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Let’s take a look at how a lack of sleep affects our health as women and how we can improve it.
How do You Define a Lack of Sleep?
A lack of sleep is medically known as sleep deprivation. How do we define this term?
The American Sleep Association says that a lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, is what happens when you don’t get enough complete sleep.
If you’ve experienced sleep deprivation before, you’ll be familiar with the symptoms. These include sleepiness during the day, clumsiness, fatigue, and weight loss or weight gain.
As well as these physical symptoms, the brain is also adversely affected by a lack of sleep as well. Cognitive function is severely impaired when you’re suffering from sleep deprivation.
Interestingly, there is a difference between acute periods of sleep deprivation and chronic sleep restriction. However, a complete lack of sleep over a prolonged period hasn’t been studied in humans.
We have looked at it in lab animals, who suffered serious side effects, including death.
Sleep Deprivation: What it Does to Your Body
Now that we know how to define sleep deprivation let’s take a look at how a lack of sleep affects your body physically, along with your cognitive function.
- Memory Issues: Healthline explains that sleep deprivation can affect both short-term and long-term memory. This is because your body needs sleep to make permanent connections involving memory.
- Mood Alterations: your mood can be negatively affected by a lack of sleep. You can become emotional, moody and easily irritated. Your mood can even be altered to the point of anxiety and depression.
- Weak Immunity: when your body isn’t getting enough sleep, your immune system is weakened. This causes its defenses to be lower against viruses like the flu. When you’re tired and exposed to germs like this, you’re more likely to get sick.
- Low Libido: a lack of sex drive and sleep deprivation are closely related. In men especially, this symptom can be a result of a lowering of testosterone levels.
- High Blood Pressure: If you’re getting less than five hours of sleep a night, you will experience an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Poor Balance: your balance and coordination can be off due to a lack of sleep. If this is the case, you’re more prone to falling and experiencing other physical accidents.
How Much Sleep Should You Get?
We know how sleep deprivation negatively affects the body. There are a number of physical symptoms you could develop if you deprive your body of sleep for too long. So how much sleep should you get to prevent these symptoms?
Alexandra Sifferlin of Time Magazine explains that the amount of sleep you should get every night depends on your age.
While it can also vary from individual to individual, the National Sleep Foundation has produced some general guidelines to help you get a rough idea.
The consensus is that infants, children, and teenagers should be getting more sleep. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 should get between seven and nine hours each night.
Adults between the ages of 26 and 64 should be getting between seven and nine hours each night as well.
Adults older than 65 should be getting between seven to eight hours.
While the sleep margin is relatively generous, the minimum amount of sleep you should be getting each night is reasonably high – but it’s achievable. At the same time, it’s good to remember that this requirement varies from person to person.
Sleep and Health: How are They Related?
You know how much sleep you should be getting each night. As women, it’s important that we prioritize a good night’s sleep. So how is it related to our health, exactly?
The National Sleep Foundation explains that women experience unique problems when it comes to their health and getting a good night’s sleep.
A 2005 Sleep in America poll revealed that women are more likely to have issues getting to sleep than men. They’re also less likely to stay asleep, too.
Women are also more likely to suffer from sleepiness during the day than men. Getting the right amount of sleep is clearly vital to women’s health.
Biological issues that are unique to women like pregnancy, menopause and the menstrual cycle all affect how well a woman is able to sleep.
This is because of the various hormones women will experience over her lifetime. These include progesterone and estrogen. The changing levels of these hormones that women will experience over the course of a lifetime can significantly affect how well she sleeps.
Therefore, being able to understand the effects of these hormones on women and how they affect their sleep can be a key to helping women get a good night’s sleep.
When’s the Optimal Time to Sleep?
We’ve talked about the link between women’s health and sleep. Based on this knowledge, how do you know when the best time to start trying to get a good night’s sleep is?
Ingrid Prueher of Huffington Post explains that our body’s circadian rhythms have a significant impact on what time we should be trying to go to sleep.
Our body’s circadian rhythm is responsible or our sleep and wake cycles. In the morning, it helps to produce cortisol, a hormone affected by light that can help us get going.
In the evening, our circadian rhythm helps to produce melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep and feelings of drowsiness. The older we get, the more trouble our body has producing melatonin, so the levels of this hormone begin to decrease. This means that our optimal sleep time changes, too.
A study conducted at Oxford University says that 9:30 am is the optimal wake-up time when we’re in our twenties.
In our thirties, it’s 8 am.
The forties, 7:30 am.
In our fifties, it’s 7 am, and in our sixties, it’s 6:30 am.
Because we need between seven and nine hours of sleep throughout these age brackets, we must adjust the time we go to bed accordingly.
Why Women Need a Good Night’s Sleep
We’ve briefly talked about how women’s general health is related to a good night’s sleep. Let’s explore that in depth a little bit more.
Jody Scott of Vogue Australia breaks down what progesterone is and why it’s essential to a women’s overall well-being.
Progesterone is the sex hormone. In the last two weeks of a women’s menstrual cycle, the body produces more of this hormone in preparation for the coming weeks of fertility.
The energy used to produce this hormone in women causes drowsiness and sleepiness. These added levels result in a lack of energy that requires more sleep to replenish.
Dr. Harrington explains that women should be getting between half an hour to an hour of extra sleep every night in these two weeks every month.
Dr. Harrington also explains other side effects of this naturally occurring process for women. She says that towards the end of our cycle, a lot of us can suffer from premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
While a change in hormones very much causes PMS, it’s also because we’re not getting the required increase in sleep for this part of the month.
A Quick Way to Improve Your Sleep
We’ve looked at how to define sleep deprivation, how much sleep we should get as women, and how sleep is closely linked to our health. Now, let’s talk about some practical ways you can improve your sleep.
John Swartzberg, M.D., of Huffington Post, explains that there are a number of things you can do immediately to increase your chances of good sleep when evening rolls around.
The first way you can quickly make a lifestyle change to improve your sleep is by cutting out the caffeine.
Dramatically reducing or cutting caffeine entirely out of your diet can be an effective way of improving your chances of sleeping.
If you think you might struggle to cut it out completely, you can compromise by staying away from it within four to six hours of your bedtime. This is because caffeine tends to linger, long after you’ve actually ingested it. In fact, if you drink a cup of coffee at 7 pm, half of that caffeine will still be in your system at 11 pm.
While you might not see a dramatic difference within the first 24 hours, within a few days of implementing this change in your lifestyle you should start to see a difference.
A Practical Way to Improve Your Sleep
We are all familiar with the energy boost that caffeine gives us, which is why cutting it out of our diets is an obvious step towards better sleep.
John continues by saying that another way you can help to improve your sleep is also diet related.
Culture would have you believe that a big, wholesome meal can send you straight to sleep. However, science argues against this.
The chemical Tryptophan is a building block of the sleep hormone serotonin. You can get this chemical in a lot of the food you eat. However, some studies argue that there’s not enough of it in our diets to make a significant impact.
Eating a heavy meal before going to sleep isn’t good for your sleep patterns, or your health. Logically, it makes sense that there’s no need to load up on calories before you lie down and rest for nine hours.
Another reason for this is to help avoid any potential stomach issues that could keep you awake.
Avoiding foods that are spicy, fried, and have high amounts of fat in them can prevent you from experiencing stomach issues either before or during sleep.
A Gradual Way to Improve Your Sleep
If you’re looking for longevity in your sleep cycle, there are a number of ways you can gradually improve your sleep and encourage your body to stick to a consistent sleep cycle.
Healthy Sleep by Harvard recommends turning your bedroom into an environment that encourages and induces sleep.
If your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool, it can help to promote a good night’s sleep.
If you experience regular outside noise, try using earplugs or investing in a white noise appliance, like a dehumidifier.
When it comes to making your room nice and dark, make sure you’ve got blackout curtains that will effectively keep all traces of light out.
Light is a powerful cue that tells the brain it’s time to wake up, so blocking all light from your room can help you to achieve sleep.
If you don’t have curtains that are particularly dark, try using a sleep mask.
Additionally, you’ll want to keep the temperature in your room nice and cool. If you’re too hot, you’ll struggle to sleep.
The optimal temperature for sleeping in is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to keep the room well-ventilated, too. You want to be able to breathe fresh air throughout the night.
Helping Women to Improve their Sleep
At How to Stop Snoring, we value a good night’s sleep. We believe that a good night’s sleep is inherent to your health as a woman, from hormone levels to daily physical function. There are a number of different causes for lack of sleep. If you’re experiencing issues that prevent sleep like snoring, we’re here to help.
Get to the bottom of the issue and improve your sleep for the better. As women, we need to take care of ourselves. Getting proper sleep is a great start. Contact How to Stop Snoring today by getting in touch with them here. You’ll see how much of a difference they can make to help you improve your sleep.