For some women, sleep often feels like a luxury. Women have to navigate life, and that can be a career, family, friends, and of course, children. At the end of a long day, which can be every day, one finds that there may still be more tasks left undone. The standard 24 hour day scarcely seems enough time to meet the myriad of responsibilities tasked with each day, including those that are self imposed. You have goals to meet, deadlines to beat and still find the time to eat. Yet, you mustn’t neglect a good night’s sleep if you want to function at your best. It is a necessary luxury!
Physiological, cognitive and emotional fatigue does show effects from your sleep deprivation. Some are better than others at masking most outward appearances of fatigue, but nonetheless the body experiences fatigue. Listen to your body! You can’t be your best for others if you aren’t functioning at your best and getting sufficient sleep. So, how much sleep do you really need in order to function at your best?
Adults need a regular schedule of seven to eight hours in bed each night— good quality sleep. Scientists have discovered that while many people may feel awake after getting less sleep, sleeping for shorter periods of time or following an irregular sleep schedule does not help your organs work together at their best. How long you sleep, your schedule, and the quality of sleep all contribute to achieving your best health and well-being. Not getting enough sleep is associated with diseases such as diabetes, depression, obesity, and heart disease.
These numbers don’t change over time as we age. While your ability to make time for sleep may vary based on your daily schedule, the average need for sleep remains the same. The customary hours deemed appropriate for sleep are at night. Society is structured around the reservation of night for sleep; daytime for business, work, school-related activities. People whose job necessitates night or irregular work hours, then their appropriate sleep hours are during the day or during at least 7-8 hours during each 24-hr. period.
If you feel that excessive daytime sleepiness is getting in the way of your daytime activities despite getting enough sleep, you should consider discussing your symptoms with a medical professional or Sleep Specialist. Keep a daily sleep diary to track when you’re in bed, when you wake at night, your use of medications, alcohol, and nicotine products. This may provide clues to better understand what’s going on and your next steps toward identifying your specific needs to regain normalcy and sleep regularity.
Other symptoms to include in a sleep diary would be difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; feeling awake but unable to move; vivid dreams; and waking up at night because of itchy feelings, loud snoring, or gasping for air. Getting evaluated for sleep problems may be especially important if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or if you’re at risk of having a stroke. Also, knowledge of family members who were told by a doctor that they have a sleep disorder is important to note.
Recent scientific advances have revealed that sleep plays a role in the health of nearly every cell in our bodies. Irregular sleep schedules, not getting enough sleep, and poor-quality sleep also interfere with how well our cells and organs work together. Frequent lack of sleep can affect our ability to fight off some infections, cope with stress, and regulate our body’s metabolism. Sleep also contributes to brain health by shaping memories and restoring emotional energy that can influence relationships and motivation. Current research is exploring whether frequent lack of sleep might be involved in brain disorders linked to stress or memory loss.
There are also some habits that interfere with sleep. Caffeine can interfere with the natural chemistry of feeling sleepy, even if your last cup of coffee was five hours before bedtime. Drinking alcohol before bed can disturb the pattern and quality of your sleep. Also, watching television, texting, and reading in bed are habits that can get in the way of going to sleep. Focusing on these activities can become a mental routine that interferes with how the brain transitions from being awake to sleeping. Light from these activities also weakens your body’s ability to release hormones that prepare your body for sleep.
Go to sleep at the same time each night. Set aside time to prepare for sleep, and give yourself seven undisturbed hours in bed. Taking time to relax, such as with a warm bath, can help your body prepare for sleep. Lastly, sleeping in a dark, quiet, and cool room can help you sleep. Avoid trying to self-medicate, particularly women. If you frequently have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor to come up with a plan that will work for you. Eating well and exercising, getting plenty of sleep can help you achieve your best for your family and career, and it can improve your well-being for years to come. Sleep health is a fundamental requirement of life — it’s not an option.