Make sleep a priority in your life

Psychologist Inchara Shivaraam offers you tips to help you get a good night's rest

By: Inchara Shivaraam

A restful sleep can be difficult for women owning to biological factors, that include menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause and can affect the quality of her sleep.

The changing levels of hormones, like estrogens and progesterone, that a woman experiences throughout a month and over a lifestyle do have an impact on sleep.

But not all of it is hormone driven. Some of it has to do with the ebbs and flows of a woman’s life, where stress is the primary convict. These stressors can range from small-scale domestic particulars, which often fall to women, to major issues—like sexism at work—that chip away at women's mental health over time. According to the VoiceNOW Survey that we conducted in the last two years, women have pointed out that lack of sleep is one of the factors that cause stress in their lives.

Though men and women experience the same amount of stress, they respond differently: In a 2010 American Psychological Association (APA ) study, 28 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported feeling “a great deal” of stress in their lives. Forty-nine percent of women in the same study also reported that stress had kept them up at night, at least once in the past month; women were also significantly more likely to experience physical or emotional symptoms because of their stress.

Why is sleep important?

One of the top reasons women miss out on sleep is because of multitasking. Women are known for multitasking, which means they are more likely to use more of their brains. The more you use your brain during the day demands a greater need for sleep. Women tend to multitask, they do lots at once and are flexible. So, they use more of their actual brain than men do. However, men who have complex jobs need more sleep than the average male as well.

Another difference with women and sleep is how their brains are structured. Women’s brains are designed to be able to raise their children while simultaneously working. This design is what allowed our ancestors to keep their children safe while doing tasks such as cooking or other chores.

The design of women’s brains to be able to multitask hasn’t changed. Women are expected to grow babies, feed them, parent them, run the household, and often work out of the home or have full-time jobs.

The demands of being wife and mother coupled with the demands of having to provide financial support can lead a woman to cut out essential sleep time. The drive to get a few more tasks accomplished can often surpass the time needed to sleep.

Women also have a harder time shutting down their brains once they do get a chance to begin the process of sleeping. The urge to continue to multitask even when resting is still there. Many women use their unwinding time to check those last few emails or to scroll through social media, plan the next day schedule, and so on.

How does lack of sleep affect women's mental health?

Sleep plays an important role in health and well-being throughout life. Poor sleep is both a symptom and a cause of mental illness. Sleep problems may contribute to the development or prolongation of mental illness by making it more difficult to cope.

The Rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep provides us with the emotional and cognitive benefits of sleep. With sufficient REM sleep, we feel emotionally balanced, and able to regulate our emotions and make good judgments. Our brain works and processes information as it should. Without it, we’re moodier, prone to irrationality and poor decision-making, and have difficulty remembering things. It’s easy to see how this mind-set makes it tough to cope with mental health. Research shows women who are sleep deprived showed reduction in working memory which is the paramount to function efficiently professionally, academically and socially.

Tips to improve sleep:

  • The most important thing to convey is to make sleep a priority.
  • Create a relaxing sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and as quiet as possible and keep electronics such as a computer, TV and phones out of your bedroom. Exposure to stimulating objects and lights from computer and TV screens can affect levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your body’s internal clock.
  • Don’t discuss or deal with stressful or anxiety-inducing situations right before bedtime. Just as exercise can increase energy levels and body temperature, discussing difficult topics will increase tension and may provoke a racing heartbeat. Protect the quality of your sleep by dealing with any stressful topics long before bedtime. Use the bed only for sleeping or sex.
  • Maintain sleep hygiene, set a sleep schedule. Maintain a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. Don’t go to bed too early. If you hit the sack before you’re sleepy, you may lie in bed awake and start to feel anxious. That will only make it more diff cult to drift off
  • Avoid late night meals and alcohol consumption and nicotine. Skip heavy meals. Before bed and limit alcohol. Even if a cocktail seems to help you fall asleep, it can interfere with sleep quality and disrupt sleep later in the night.
  • Schedule downtime before bed. Setting aside time to unwind and quiet. Make relaxation your goal than sleep. spend time right before bed relaxing and engaging in soothing activities like yoganidra and projective relaxation, body scan and visualization
  • Control the night-time environment with comfortable temperature, noise, and light levels. If unable to sleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and perform a soothing activity, such as listening to soft music or reading.
  • Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jetlag-like symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
  • Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
  • If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary  to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
 Also, while here, take our Smart Balance Pledge for 2019 here:


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