Day time sleepiness, increased accidents, lack of focus, under performance on the work front and lack of concentration and increased sickness, fatigue and weight gain… sleep deprivation can cause these and much more in women.
Sleep is a basic human need, as much if not more important than food and exercise. And as several recent research studies reveal, women are more likely than men to experience daytime sleepiness and sleepless nights few days in a week.
While sleep is the foundation for a productive day ahead, it is healthy to have seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function well the next day and women, as the National Sleep Foundation found, sleep less than seven hours during the work week.
Why women lack sleep?
Just as the number of hours of sleep is vital, so too is the quality of sleep. True that several biological factors such as menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can affect how well you sleep. And the changing cycle of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can create havoc on your sleep regimen. So can habits such as alcohol or too much caffeine intake. Yet, it is imperative that you understand the effects of these hormones and environmental factors, and adopt/modify lifestyle habits to enjoy a good night's sleep.
There are other causes for sleep deprivation such as depression, stress, anxiety, reflux, bladder problems and pain. In these cases you need to treat heartburn incontinence or pain and hypnotic medications to improve sleep.
While 58% of women suffer nighttime pain than men (48%), conditions like migraine, tension headaches, rheumatic and arthritis conditions are common among women. Pain may make it difficult to fall asleep or lead to nighttime or early morning awakenings.
Practice relaxation techniques such as cognitive therapy, biofeedback and in some instances try over the counter medications for help.
This is a chronic neurological disorder that affects approximately one in 2000 people. While symptoms of narcolepsy might appear frequently in teen years, in addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, these people have 'sleep attacks' suddenly and thereby lose muscle tone or strength and may have disturbed nighttime sleep.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological movement disorder that affects 18% of female adult population. Due to difficulties in sleeping, RLS can lead to daytime sleepiness, mood swings, anxiety and depression. Though we do not know the exact cause of RLS, research indicates that it could be due to iron or folate deficiency. Treatment should include iron or vitamin supplements, lifestyle changes and medications. And involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep can occur every 20-30 seconds.
What lack of sleep can do?
Depriving your body of sleep is like cheating it and this can make you more prone to illness, stress, traffic accidents and gain weight. There are doctors who swear that sleep will actually do more to take off weight than exercise!
But, lack of sleep can cause more than just these physical problems. You will not be able to function at your best, take proper work decisions, relationship challenges and handle any life situation that requires you to know your own mind, that may require judgment, problem solving and creativity which only a rested brain is capable of . Everything you do, you will do better with a good night's sleep.
There is a risk of those women who get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep at night for heart disease and heart-related problems than men with the same sleeping patterns. The levels of inflammatory markers vary significantly with sleep duration in women, but not men. The levels of interleukin-6, a marker related to coronary heart disease, was found significantly lower in women who reported sleeping eight hours as compared with seven hours.
Again, high sensitivity C-reactive protein is predictive of future cardiovascular morbidity and levels of CRP were found significantly higher in women who reported sleeping five hours or less.
Inflammatory mechanisms which may play a role in the cardiovascular risk associated with sleep deprivation are elevated in sleep-deprived individuals. Seven to eight hours per night appears to be optimal for health and women need to make a resolution to hit the bed on time daily so as to face the challenges of the next day.
Single working women and working moms with young kids are especially drowsy. They tend to clock in an hour and a half later and instead settle for just about five hours of sleep daily. The result is exhaustion. Most women know that sleep should be a priority but their many commitments push sleep down the list.
Getting a good night's sleep
Many a times, workaholism leads you to do more and more and more of it until you cannot stop. This leads to lack of sleep which in turn leads to never being able to do your best. Women are often fueled by the mistaken idea that getting enough sleep means being lazy or less passionate about work and life.
It is observed that women in distress take longer to fall asleep and then sleep poorly. Depending upon the causes of sleep problems they need to undergo treatment for depression and anxiety that can improve their quality of sleep.
Some simple strategies for coping with sleep deprivation
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the indirect costs of insomnia including time lost from work and losses in productivity are estimated to nearly $ 28 billion a year. Some tips for staying awake during the day while searching for better sleep at night:
Drinking lots of water
Water not only quenches thirst but helps to keep active, as this saves you from sudden sleep attacks during the day and also particularly while driving or at the computer for long stretches. It would be wise to always have water at the work desk.
Expose to the sun
For irregular sleep patterns, direct sun exposure in the morning can help to reset the internal clock. Sunlight has the power to curb afternoon drowsiness and it can arouse attention when exposed to it.
Get up and about
Use the staircase at work instead of the lift. Walk to the cafeteria instead of ordering coffee at the work table. Even if there is nowhere to go, walk up and down a couple of flights when you feel drowsy. Moving stimulates the brain to stay awake and when one is very sleepy, distracting oneself with movement can override the sleep drive.
Try to work out a flexible schedule
If possible, try to negotiate for a flexible schedule at work. You could garner more sleep and be less stressed this way. Special arrangements could be made at home leaving you with more free time and less stress to get sleeping better at night.
Seek medical help
If you believe that you are suffering from a sleep disorder then it is better to seek physician help or consult a sleep psychologist to discuss treatment options.
Sleeping tips for young mothers
Most young mothers feel tired and utterly exhausted after childbirth with complete loss of sleep. You have to adapt to a new self settling technique with the toddler almost always around you. Most of the time, at least for the first seven months you are likely to spend sleepless nights till such time the child sleeps for longer stretches.
A long period of sleep deprivation can impact your life, your personality and your general ability to function. Over a period of time small things can seem like huge problems when they are not.
Here are some tips for young mothers to survive sleep deprivation.
Never count the hours slept
This can only lead to anxiety about how to get sleep for the deprived hours. Instead, it is wiser to forget the arithmetic and wake up and wipe up from memory.
Attempt to dress up and get back to routine
Even if you have huge bags under your eyes, are sick to the stomach with exhaustion, get up and dress up and show up. A quick hot shower and some make-up can do wonders for the exhaustion and it will be good to wear a new lipstick and a dress that can make you feel good.
Go out for a stroll
While it is true that sleep deprivation can wear you down and deplete your energy dramatically, nothing like getting out in the sunshine, or cool breeze and pounding the pavement. Walk or run or stroll with the pram.
Even a little bit of sleep can help
When sleep deprivation is at its worst, even a few minutes of sleep can give succor to your weary eyes. Even snatching little bits of sleep can be helpful. If a friend of a family member comes over and offers to hold the baby, it would be good to go and lie down for 20 or 30 minutes.
Consuming chocolates, coffee and wine
There are instances of young mothers surviving with a stable diet of chocolate, caffeine and wine with just a few carbs thrown in. This can bring comfort and make up for many a tough days of fatigue.
There are treatments for sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia which can help the multi-taking women of today to recover. During sleep the cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for thought, memory and language and others, disengages from the senses and goes into a recovery mode. In other words, if you use more of your brain during the day, the more of it that needs to recover and consequently the more sleep you need.