It’s official…according to the latest research, women need on average 20 minutes more sleep than men. It seems that as women generally multi task more than men (and yes, that is a generalisation), this uses up more brain power leading us to need a longer period of sleep.
While we may need more sleep than men, many of us are not getting our optimum quantity or quality of sleep. Another sleep study in the US has revealed that women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling and staying asleep and feel more sleepy during the day. Both men and women face challenges which may be affecting their sleep however there are some challenges which are unique to us women, such as hormone fluctuations, maternal stress, menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy related discomfort, menopause hot flushes. What a pretty picture! Not to mention snoring husbands, wakeful kids, stressful jobs but that’s for another article.
While some women cope well with less sleep, for many of us it can impact significantly on our daily lives. How, I hear you ask?
- Our physiological processes – basically a posh way of saying that we find everyone and everything way more irritating when we’re tired.
- Our productivity levels during the day – we only manage to juggle 30 balls in the air, instead of the usual 35.
- Energy levels – only 20,300 steps on the fitbit instead of the usual 40,000.
- Increased risk of health problems – who has time for health problems?
- Impairs thinking and memory – maybe that wouldn’t be so bad from time to time?
The list goes on but I’m too tired to remember the rest.
So how can we help ourselves to improve our sleep other than going on holiday once a month to the Carribean?
Make a commitment to yourself – We have so many commitments in our daily lives, whether it be work, family, kids, home. Make sleep a priority for you. Switch off from the work emails, making arrangements, paying bills and switch on This is Us instead.
Sleep hygiene – the advice is that your bedroom shouldn’t be too hot or too cold; too light or too dark; keep hydrated throughout the day but don’t drink too much as you’ll need to pee multiple times a night; eat a decent meal in the evening but don’t eat too much in the evening. Clear right? If not, your concentration may be fuzzy from not enough sleep. Let me simplify it – ideal temperature in the bedroom around 65-68 degrees, keep the room as dark as possible, drink plenty of water during the day but limit liquid intake from late afternoon, avoid heavy, spicy meals in the evening.
Caffeine curse – everyone knows it. Caffeine is the drink of the devil when it comes to sleep. It would be unreasonable of me to suggest cutting out coffee, however be aware that caffeine can stay in our system for up to 8 hours. That means that that coffee or coke in the afternoon when your eyelids are drooping lower and lower may actually affect your ability to fall asleep at bedtime. So, try to replace it with a decaf, herbal drink, or water and get moving to try and get yourself through that mid afternoon slump.
Blissful bedtime – remember the time when we were younger when we would do anything to avoid going to bed? How things change… But going to bed and falling asleep don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Create a relaxing wind down for yourself before getting into bed.
- Put down the phone (yes, I know that sounds scary but face your fear. The world won’t stop because you’re not checking facebook until the second before you close your eyes).
- Have a warm bath or shower – and you may be able to extend it beyond the usual 20 seconds you have in the shower in the morning.
- In the words of the Green Cross Code – stop, look, listen. STOP your thoughts whirling around your head by doing some deep breathing exercises, LOOK at the pages of a good book and LISTEN to relaxing music or an audio book if you can’t be bothered to look at one.
Clock out – we’ve all had the scenario of looking at the time and calculating how many hours of sleep we potentially have left that night. And then we don’t fall asleep straight away and we need to re-calculate. And re-calculate again. So all that’s happening is our anxiety levels are increasing and relaxation levels are decreasing. Where does falling asleep fit into this scenario? It doesn’t. My advice – turn the clock around and let go of the time. It doesn’t matter what time it is. You will still function the next day even with less sleep. Worst case scenario – you may feel a bit more tired.
I will end with a wonderful saying which resonates with me ‘let her sleep for when she wakes she will move mountains’.