Are you getting enough sleep?

Are you getting enough sleep?

Daily life is full of obligations, responsibilities and tasks that can seem to take up all your free time. Yet there's one aspect of our daily life that we often sacrifice to check off items from our daunting "to-do" list, especially for women: a quality night's sleep.

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that adults get 7-8 hours each night. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 2/3 of U.S. women get less than the required amount of sleep every night, and they exhibit a higher level of sleep-related issues than men.

Researchers have indicated that good quality sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. Many vital tasks happen even when you sleep. Some of those tasks help keep you healthy and function at your best. Sleep is your body's time to repair and reset itself. During sleep, your body gets rid of viruses, operates on a waste removal system, eliminates cancer cells, repairs tissues and creates new memories.

If you aren't getting enough sleep or the quality of your sleep is poor, it can affect how well your growth and stress hormones, immune system, appetite, breathing and blood pressure work. Not having high-quality sleep can lead to a lot of negative consequences. It may cause an imbalance in your endocrine system, leading to skin issues and sexual problems. But there are some benefits to getting a good night's sleep too. If you have quality sleep, it will improve your mental health and mood. It also increases your clarity, focus and reflexes.

The CDC says that a lack of sleep increases your risk for obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and getting infections. There is a wealth of research suggesting lack of sleep can lead to diabetic-like conditions. And now recent studies have shown the state of your sleep can affect how well you respond to vaccinations.

Your local Capital Women’s Care team wants to share important information about the risk factors associated with sleep disorders, an overview of sleep disorders commonly affecting women and their symptoms. Knowing the different treatments available can help you find relief from your symptoms. Let us share with you some handy tips on how to ensure that you can catch more ZZZs so that you can live a happy and healthy life.

What risk factors are related to sleep disorders?

There are many factors shown to increase your risk of developing sleep disorders. These include:

  • Gender: When it comes to sleep, women are often at risk of poor quality sleep and sleep disorders.
  • Age: Studies show that as people age, they have a higher chance of developing sleep disorders. This especially applies to post-menopausal women because they may experience hormonal changes affecting the quality of their sleep.
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Travelling long distances: Especially if you're suffering from jet lag.
  • High-stress levels: Can lead to a variety of sleep issues – balancing many duties, obligations and responsibilities, especially if it elevates your stress levels can negatively affect your health.
  • Working night shifts: This can disrupt melatonin levels and sleep patterns, which can lead to sleep disorders and a loss of health.
  • Obesity: Research shows a strong association between obesity and sleep disorders, specifically sleep apnea.
  • Consuming alcohol and smoking
  • Poor sleeping environment

What are sleep issues? How do sleep issues affect women's health?

Women's menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause periods can all adversely affect sleep quality. Women’s hormone levels can change substantially. For example, they can change as much as during puberty, when menstruation starts, or during pregnancy. These shifts can affect women mentally and emotionally.

Women are more likely to have sleep problems and complaints as they go through life-long hormonal fluctuations.

The most commonly occurring sleep disorders among women are:

Sleep difficulties: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or early awakening; and the inability to resume sleep.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Facing difficulty in falling asleep
  • Regularly having difficulty going back to sleep at night
  • Not having enough sleep and waking up early
  • Feeling tired after waking up
  • Sleeplessness and fatigue
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Being unorganized, experiencing an increase in mistakes or injuries
  • Tension headaches can result from various reasons. (wearing a tight band around the head)
  • Social anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal malfunctioning
Lack of sleep has a variety of side effects even after one night. Make sure you address your sleep problems sooner rather than later to prevent more serious cases of acute insomnia from developing.

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1. Weak immune system.

Can someone get sick because of a lack of sleep?

To answer your question, yes. A lack of sleep can lead to some pretty serious consequences during an illness and should not be dismissed. It’s important to get enough sleep if you want T Cells to attack the cells carrying viruses. Inadequate sleep reduces T Cell response in the body

Lack of sleep also puts you at risk of producing lower levels of cytokine proteins. Low levels of cytokines in the body make it harder for your immune system to fight off germs & viruses.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce the number of cytokine antibodies your body produces. Even a modest sleep loss can cause you to become more susceptible to illness.

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2. Losing sleep can lead to weight gain

Insomnia is a sleep disorder affecting many people. It is also a risk factor for other conditions like weight gain and obesity. Insomnia not only prevents you from getting that vital sleep your body needs, but it also causes changes in appetite and cravings which can lead to weight gain.

Have you ever found yourself eating junk food late at night? If you have insomnia, then the worse thing is that willpower of will power and the ability to control yourself while feeling tired can lead in weight gain. Late-night snacking can also lead to digestive problems and thus make your sleep worse.

Sleep deprivation can disrupt the balance of the hormones in your body that control hunger and fullness. As a result, you'll have more ghrelin than leptin. Ghrelin is what makes you hungry while leptin is what makes you feel full

Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant and leptin tells your brain when you’ve had enough to eat.

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3. Lack of sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances.

Many people, especially women, are aware of the adverse effects that sex hormones can have on sleep and induce sleep deprivation. For example, low levels of estrogen during menopause can cause the hypothalamus to raise your body temperature causing hot flashes

However, sleep deprivation or a lack of sleep can also have harmful effects on your hormones.

Sleep deprivation can lead to hormone imbalance, and the imbalance of these hormones can lead to more sleep deprivation. It’s a vicious cycle. To break this cycle, it is essential to understand how the body communicates & functions.

The central and endocrine systems play an important role in the regulation of body hormones. These interactions are controlled by the pituitary gland, and this is called the HPA axis.

The relationship between your nervous system and your endocrine system is complex. So how you behave affects how the two systems interact. To keep your body functioning properly, you need to make sure you get enough sleep and this is especially important for your hormones.

The doctor will decide which treatments are best for you. They may include any one or combination of the following:

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i)
  • Sleep education and hygiene
  • Stimulus control
  • Restricted and compressed sleep
  • Relaxation

How Does CBT-I Work?

CBT-I is a type of therapy that explores the connection between how we think, what we do, and how we sleep. A trained therapist in CBT-I will help identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are contributing to insomnia symptoms.

Thoughts and feelings about sleep are examined and tested to see if they’re accurate. Behaviours are also examined to determine whether or not they promote sleep. Then, a provider will help clarify any of your misconceptions or challenges so you to get more restful sleep.

Treatment often lasts from 6-8 sessions and lengths may vary, depending on a person’s needs. Some treatments can last as short as 2 sessions when given by a primary care doctor.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a multi-component treatment that combines different approaches. It may include sessions with a psychologist, therapist or instructor, focusing on the thoughts (cognitive) and behaviour of the individual.

  • Cognitive interventions: Cognitive restructuring is a way of modifying negative thoughts about sleep, like "I don't think I slept well last night" or "I wish I could've slept for more than two hours".

  • Behavioural interventions: Many different training methods can help promote relaxation and form healthy sleep habits, including stimulus control and sleep restriction.

  • Psychoeducational interventions: CBT-I typically includes providing people with information about the connection between thoughts, feelings, behaviours and sleep.

What are sleep education and hygiene?

Educating clients about the importance of sleep hygiene is a core component of CBT-I. Kicking bad sleeping habits, such as heavy drinking or watching TV before bed, and adopting better sleep habits like having a regular bedtime and getting consistent exercise is important for quality sleep.

Several factors could be causing your poor sleep quality. Some topics to cover may include your diet, how much exercise you're getting, and the environment that you sleep in.

Also Read: What is Gut Health? How can I improve my Gut Health?  

What is stimulus control?

Many people who have trouble sleeping associate the bedroom with wakefulness and frustration. Someone who has insomnia might also associate their bedroom with habits that don't help to sleep, like eating, watching TV, or using a cell phone or computer. Stimulus control is a useful technique because it helps break apart these associations, reclaiming the bedroom as a place for restful sleep. Clients are instructed to get out of bed when it’s difficult to fall asleep or when they lie awake for more than 10 minutes, only going back to bed when they are tired again. Clients are also instructed to set an alarm every morning at the same time as well.

What do you mean by restricted and compressed sleep?

People with insomnia often spend too much time awake in the middle of the night. A sleep restriction program seeks to limit their bedtime to a more narrow window of time to promote proper sleep patterns again.

If you're struggling with insomnia, this technique might help.

Sleep restriction is usually undertaken by lowering total sleep time to gain more from your sleeping hours. Sleep duration is calculated based on the amount of time spent asleep throughout an average night, which is then increased by 30 minutes during restriction.

For example, suppose a person has been trying to sleep for 8 hours but can't manage to get an average of 6 hours of sleep per night. To remedy this, they start by manually adjusting their bedtime so they're spending 7.5 hours in bed before starting the experiment.

Sleep compression is a different, more gentle approach often used with older people.

What are the relaxation techniques to have a good sleep cycle?

Relaxation techniques can help you relax when you can’t sleep. They make it easier to change the natural response of your body, so it might be the perfect way for you to get a good night's sleep.

The most effective relaxation techniques are those that the person can reasonably and easily fit into their routine. Here are a few commonly used techniques in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I):

  • Breathwork: These generally involve taking slow, deep breaths. Studies have suggested that focused breathing can increase your heart rate and breathing rates and reduce feelings of stress.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This is a method that involves tens to help people relax their muscles. These techniques are combined with breathing exercises and other activities to reduce stress levels.

  • Autogenic training is a technique: where a person uses awareness of different bodily sensations. Focusing on sensations such as heaviness, warmth or feeling of relaxation may help to relax tension across the body.

  • Biofeedback: Uses technology to monitor processes in parts of the body such as brain waves and body temperature. This data can be collected and provides information which may allow people to learn more about their well-being.

  • Guided or self-hypnosis: This can be a solution for insomnia. It relaxes you when you're given a verbal or non-verbal cue.

  • Meditation: Practicing meditation can reduce stress, and anxiety and produce more relaxation. It may also include practising focusing attention with movement to achieve this.

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