What good does sleep do?
Simply put, sleep provides an opportunity to rest and recover. It allows the brain and body to recuperate from the wear-and-tear endured during the day’s activities and should allow us to wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go once again.
Lack of sleep not only makes it more difficult to function throughout the day, but it also has a number of surprising health implications. For example, it has been linked tohigh blood pressure and diabetes, as well as mood swings and irritability.
The circadian rhythm
Also known as our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, our circadian rhythm is what keeps us awake during the day and has us feeling sleepy when darkness rolls around. Although the circadian rhythm is well established in all of us, recent evidence has begun to suggest that men and women’s circadian rhythms may be a little different.
One particular study measured the body temperature and melatonin levels of 157 individuals to track their circadian rhythm. The results showed that women’s circadian rhythm tended to run earlier and shorter than men’s. This meant that they were more likely to fall asleep earlier and wake earlier, and that their energy levels were less sustainable.
Does tiredness ever make it hard for you to get through your personal and professional workload? Well, you’re not alone!
Another study has shown that women deal better with lack of sleep that their male counterparts. The research, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, showed that although performance decreased for both men and women subjected to sleep restrictions, men functioned less well and took longer to recover from the effects of disrupted sleep. Also, when participants were given two 10-hour nights of sleep (just like some of us get when we sleep in on weekends), their performance didn’t improve. So, perhaps sleeping in isn’t as beneficial as we might have hoped!
When it comes to sleep, another difference between the sexes is the amount of time they spend in each of the five stages of sleep. These stages help your body do the repair work needed after a day’s activities and play a big part in our mood and tiredness levels the next day.
Other research has highlighted that women spend more time than men in the sleep stage known as “deep sleep.” It’s during this stage that the repair work is carried out, and it’s an important time for the immune system, which needs this opportunity to recover in order to stay in tip-top shape! The fact that men spend less time in deep sleep could explain why women have an advantage over men when it comes to performing when deprived of sleep.
Although sleep disorders such as sleep apnea occur in both men and women, it’s more common among men. In fact, it’s estimated that men are as much as two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
The condition interrupts sleep because the walls of the throat relax and narrow, affecting the individual’s ability to breathe. Other symptoms associated with sleep apnea include loud snoring, noisy, laboured breathing and short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping. It’s unclear exactly why men are more prone to sleep apnea, but if you think you may have it, a visit to your doctor for some further advice is a good idea.
Lastly, although there are many differences between men and women when it comes to sleep, if your partner suffers from a sleep problem, it’s likely to affect you too. After all, snoring, tossing and turning and getting up in the middle of the night aren’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep for either partner! So, have a look at my tips below and visit our sleep hub for more information.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
Avoid alcohol. It disrupts the sleep-wake cycle and in so doing, can affect sleep quality. That’s because although alcohol may help you fall asleep quicker, once you’re asleep you’ll spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep where all the restorative work is done. This means that you’re not only likely to have a hangover to deal with the next day, but you’ll also more likely feel tired.
Stick to a regular bedtime. Going to bed at a different time every night is definitely not wise as it can contribute to low energy levels and poor sleep. You don’t have to switch off at 8 p.m. sharp, but give yourself a window, say between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., to wind down and get to bed.
Switch off your gadgets an hour before you go to sleep. Tablets, TVs, phones and computers have become a standard feature of our evening routines but can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Their screens emit blue light that keeps you awake and reduces your production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Read a book! Instead of turning to technology to unwind at the end of the day, get started on a good book instead. This relaxing activity should help you drift off to sleep a little more easily.
Invest in blackout curtains. This can be particularly helpful if you work shifts and have to catch up on your sleep during the day. Even for the rest of us, blackout curtains can block out sunlight during the summer months, not to mention the light from street lamps inconveniently shining right outside your bedroom window.
Soak in the tub. Like reading a book, a good hot bath is relaxing and can promote a better night’s sleep.
Try some lavender. Many people swear that a few drops of lavender essential oil on their pillow makes them feel sleepy, so if you’re looking for a more natural way to promote sleep, this may be a good option.
Use Deep Sleep. This is A.Vogel’s very own herbal remedy, made from freshly harvested and organically grown valerian and hops, plants that help restore a natural sleep without any of the troublesome side effects of traditional sleeping pills.