Are you going to bed feeling anxious and dreading the ling night ahead?
Recently a new research study from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Center in England made waves by revealing that women need more sleep than men. The director of the Sleep Research Center Jim Horne explained, “Women’s brains are wired differently … so their sleep need will be slightly greater…Women tend to multitask – they do lots at once and are flexible – and so they use more of their actual brain than men do.”
The research also outlined that women are more strongly affected by poor sleep or lack of sleep than men, with a higher likelihood of mood instability and psychological distress as a result. Horne went on to explain that women need an extra 20 minutes of sleep, minimum, in comparison to men, because they use more of their brains throughout the day, meaning they need longer in the “recovery mode” provided by sleep.
Firstly, any research that highlights the complexity of women’s brains should be celebrated! We are all too often made to feel like we are lacking in comparison to men – that our femaleness makes us inherently “less”. Here is further proof that there is nothing to support this cultural view. Thank you!
Secondly, it’s hardly surprising that women use their brains more and therefore need more time to rest. As the researcher states, we women simply do more with our brains on a daily basis – we multitask, we switch roles, we take care of our children, our homes, and our businesses all at once. We often take on paid work, plus the unpaid work of homemaking and childcare, and the emotional labor of looking after loved ones, simultaneously. It’s no wonder we need to rest more than our male partners!
Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a depressive effect – it suppresses adrenal function, slows serotonin production, and produces more mental chatter. A study published in 2014 detailed that chronic sleep deprivation – that is, getting less than the 7-8 hours you need per night on a consistent basis – significantly stalls learning abilities and memory. Lack of sleep prevents your brain synapses from communicating with each other effectively. A protein-based plaque actually builds up between the synapses when we don’t allow the brain to rest, repair, and “decongest” itself at night. Like a computer operating system, your brain needs to defragment and process all the information you took in during the day.
The real reason women need more sleep
Most importantly, women are doing all this extra brain work in an environment that organizes our time, energy, and workload by masculine or linear guidelines. It’s amazing we need only an extra 20 minutes of sleep!
Women work on a different operating system to men and that’s fundamentally down to our hormone patterns. Men have daily hormone cycles, women have monthly 4-phase hormone cycles. For men and women, our hormones impact how our brains function.
Giving ourselves extra time in bed is really the bare minimum we can do for ourselves in terms of self-care.
- No caffeine after lunch time – swap for herbal teas – chamomile is good! I love the Pukka Herbal Brand which can be got in all health shops. This Chamomile, Vanilla and Honey one is really nice.\
- Cut fizzy drinks – instead go for sparing water and fruit
- Reduce alcohol units – having a weekend of binge drinking has huge affects on your mood/sleep the following week
- Eat big meal during the day and lighter meal in evening
- Overcome an afternoon energy slump with a short walk, a glass of ice water, or a phone call with a friend.
- Turn off phone/ipad/laptop after 8pm
- Turn off wifi router
- Have a bath / hot shower with some lavender and candles
- Keep a notebook beside your bed so you can jot down your “to do list” for tomorrow – this empties your busy mind out onto paper and helps your mind relax.
- Listen to some meditation / relaxing music before you go to sleep.
- Save the bedroom for sleep and sex. Your bedroom should feel relaxing. Don’t sit in bed and work, surf the Internet, or watch TV.
- Check the Temp of your room. The bedroom temperature is often a cause for arguments! The ideal temperature for your sleeping quarters should be around 18.5oC, however, you need to take into account if the person you sleep beside gets unbearably warm at night! Sleep experts recommend that your bedroom should be cool and dark to allow you the best possible chance at a great night’s sleep, so don’t be tempted to crank up the heating just before bed – you’ll soon warm up under the covers.
- Exercise 3-5 times a week – this helps burn energy, clears toxins from sweating and makes your feel good
- Eat foods that nourish the body gently rather then overload it with carbs/sugars/bad fats
- Introduce some supplements that have a calming affect on the nervous system and adrenal glands
- Have reflexology / massage / relaxation treatments at least twice a month until improves – then have monthly top up session
- Black out blinds are a really good idea. Any bit of light coming into room can influence your ability to deep sleep.
- Your lower back may not hurt enough to wake you up, but mild pain can disturb the deep, restful stages of sleep. Put a pillow between your legs to align your hips better and stress your lower back less.
- Blame your pillow if you wake up tired with a stiff neck. It should be just the right size — not too fat and not too flat — to support the natural curve of your neck when you’re resting on your back. Do you sleep on your side? Line your nose up with the center of your body. Don’t snooze on your stomach. It twists your neck.
- Sneezes, sniffles, and itchiness from allergies can lead to lousy shut-eye. Your mattress may hold the cause. Over time, it can fill with mold, dust mite droppings, and other allergy triggers. Seal your mattress, box springs, and pillows to avoid them. An Air tight matress protecter will help.
- Turn your clock away from your bed so you dont have to keep seeing the time/hours pass by
- White Noise Machine if living in a busy/noisey area
- Bone broth before bed. Consuming the gelatin in bone broth before bed helps induce sleep as a result of the amino acid, glycine, that it contains. Glycine has a calming affect on the neurotransmitters within the brain. Research has shown that bone broth will improve the quality of your sleep, help reduce daytime sleepiness, and stop the effects of sleep deprivation like learning and memory issues.
- Don’t drink anything in the last 2 hours before bed. If you have to get up at night to use the loo, it can be hard to get back to sleep quickly.
- If your partner snores this can be a huge part of the problem. Look for ways to work around this/seek help.
- Nicotine is a stimulant, just like caffeine. Tobacco can keep you from falling asleep and make insomnia worse.
- Beds Are for People! A cat’s or a dog’s night moves can cut your sleep short. They can also bring allergy triggers like fleas, fur, dander, and pollen into your bed.
- Help your body clock. Go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends. This routine will get your brain and body used to being on a healthy snooze-wake schedule. In time, you’ll be able to nod off quickly and rest soundly through the night. Tip: Get out in bright light for 5 to 30 minutes as soon as you get out of bed. Light tells your body to get going!
- Know when to see your doctor. Let her know if your sleeplessness lasts for a month or more. She can check to see if a health condition — such as acid reflux, arthritis, asthma, or depression — or a medicine you take is part of the problem.
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