Why Sleep is Essential for Women's Health at Every Age
If people could truly grasp the profound impact of sleep on every aspect of their lives and overall well-being, perhaps more individuals would pay closer attention. From wellbeing to cognitive performance, here's why you should focus more on sleep, no matter what stage of life you're in.
Why is sleep so important for our bodies?
Sleep holds incredible power within our brains, enriching our ability to learn, memorise, and make sound decisions. It acts as a recalibration for our emotions, replenishes our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Quite literally, sleep serves as a healing process for our bodies.
Sleep stands as one of the most crucial components of our lives, defining our wellness and longevity. The lack of sleep accelerates cellular aging, making it vital to recognise the promise of a long and healthy life as the primary motivation for acquiring adequate shuteye.
Grasping the far-reaching influence of sleep on every aspect of our life, from well-being to cognitive performance, might lead more of us to invest time and energy in its pursuit.
Benefits of more sleep:
- Enhancing our ability to learn
- Allows us to retain more information
- Helps to make considered decisions
- Resets our emotional balance
- Rejuvenates our immunity
- Fine-tunes our metabolic processes
- Maintains our appetite
In essence, sleep is a healing balm for our bodies. It is undoubtedly one of the most vital elements of our existence, dictating our overall health and longevity. Insufficient sleep speeds up cellular aging, underlining the importance of sleep in the pursuit of a long and healthful life.
The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation on Our Bodies
Despite extensive research, sleep remains an enigma. However, we understand its indispensable role in preserving our physical health, contributing to the recovery and rejuvenation of our heart and blood vessels. Chronic sleep deficiency is linked with a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases, renal diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke.
From a psychological and emotional perspective, sleep is crucial for our minds to reboot. We're all familiar with the feeling of exhaustion after prolonged sleep deprivation, and the invigoration following a good night's rest. Many of us struggle with sleeplessness, staring into the darkness, a problem often reported by women dealing with menopause.
Factors like stress and anxiety significantly disrupt sleep patterns, impacting deep, restful sleep. Persistent stress hormones, like cortisol, negatively affect sleep quality and length. It's impossible to avoid all stress, but prolonged periods in a 'fight or flight' state can drastically impact sleep, emotional health, hormone regulation, and overall physical health.
Simple activities like post-dinner walks can noticeably improve sleep quality by lowering stress hormones like cortisol and boosting endorphins, which enhance wellbeing and tranquility.
Decoding the Causes of Insomnia
Several factors can cause sleeplessness, and sensory overload in today's digital age is often a primary offender. We're continually bombarded by information, emails, social media, messages, and TV. We are perennially switched "on," exposing ourselves to excessive "blue light," also referred to as HEV light, emitted by screens like laptops, tablets, phones, and televisions, and also by fluorescent lights.
Research indicates that such devices can interfere with sleep by inhibiting the production of melatonin, a hormone secreted in the evening to induce sleepiness. The pineal gland, a small organ in the brain, is responsible for melatonin production. Sleeping in a dark room is therefore crucial as it cues the pineal gland that it's time to sleep. Individuals like shift workers often face disruptions in their circadian rhythm and may encounter health issues linked to sleep deprivation.
Overexposure to blue light and environmental toxins can potentially damage the pineal gland, resulting in calcification and impairing its ability to produce melatonin.
Deficient melatonin production, combined with long-term sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, is associated with various health risks.
Some of these include increased likelihood of:
- Heart attacks
How much sleep should you get per night?
So, what's the ideal sleep duration for maintaining good health and peak functionality? National sleep guidelines suggest that healthy adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. But how can we reset our circadian rhythm to ensure we're getting the sleep we need?
Steps to Improve Sleep Quality
Searching for how you can reset your circadian rhythm to start improving your quality and quantity of sleep per night? Here are the basics you should start with.
Start by making sleep a priority in your daily routine, ensuring work and social commitments don't encroach upon your sleep hours. Cutting back on sleep doesn't offer any advantages, as quality sleep is essential for peak mental, emotional, and physical performance.
Craft a sleep-friendly bedroom environment. Consider investing in blackout curtains, a good-quality mattress, and limit screen time an hour before bedtime.
3. Healthy Habits
Certain habits can disrupt sleep more than you think. Keep alcohol and caffeine intake in check, and try quitting or cutting back on nicotine if you're a smoker. Try introducing new healthy habits, like unwinding with a relaxing bath, or giving sleep meditation a go.
Establishing a regular bedtime ritual can form the cornerstone of your sleep routine and contribute to a long, healthy life. Don't underestimate the role of quality sleep.
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.