- Sleep deprivation can increase risk of anxiety, depression and stress
- International Women's Day: 12% women in India have sleep apnea- study
- Sleeping well is important for your overall health and well-being
The pandemic is redefining our definition of health and well-being. Since last year, our lives have drastically changed due to the restrictions imposed on official, social, and personal engagements. These unnerving times and altered schedules with the added pressures of juggling work, home-schooling, and economic hardships are multiple factors that have caused stress levels to skyrocket and sleep hours to plummet.
Nutrition, exercise and sleep are the key pillars of good health. Sleep deprivation could lead to a higher risk of anxiety, depression, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and physical injury. Furthermore, a good night's sleep aids our metabolism and gives us more energy to perform critical daily tasks. Busy lifestyles are increasingly seeing men and women suffering from sleeping disorders and not receiving the quality, restorative sleep required to function at their peak. As for sleep, the stereotype of someone with a sleep disorder is a middle-aged, overweight man who snores loudly. But women also suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is most commonly found in overweight or menopausal women, although younger and older women are also at risk, as are pregnant women.
Available statistics show that around 28 million people suffer from sleep apnea in India, with the prevalence being about 14% in men and 12% in women. While both genders are equally vulnerable to sleep apnea, the symptoms and their impact are not the same. A 2017 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that men and women experienced sleep disorder symptoms differently and were more severely impacted by their symptoms, especially those around daytime sleepiness with deficits in concentration and memory.
What causes lack of sleep for women, and how it impacts them?
Women need more sleep than men, about 20 - 30 mins each night, and still face a hard time getting it. According to the United States' centre for disease control and prevention, fewer than 2/3rd women get lesser hours of sleep than they need. This has made women prone to depression and mental health instability, especially during the pandemic.
Also, a second reason why some women might struggle to get enough sleep is if their male partner's snoring is keeping them awake. 37% of all adults snore, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and "about one-half of people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea." Thirdly, women also tend to have clusters of events during REM (dream stage) sleep.
Additionally, women experience hormonal changes after puberty with their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause, affecting their sleep needs. Around menopause, roughly half of all women are expected to experience sleeping difficulties, sometimes due to a sleep disorder.
All these aspects of sleep apnea can cause arousal and disrupted sleep, leading to insomnia, fatigue, reduced daytime cognitive function, morning headaches and depression along with hypothyroidism, cognitive impairment, and dementia.
What should women do to improve their sleep quality and avoid associated risks?
Sleep has co-relations with overall well-being. Additionally, our body boosts blood flow to the skin while we sleep, which means we wake up to a healthy glow. Besides, sleeping well may also mean fewer wrinkles, brighter eyes, healthier hair, and an overall happier appearance.
- Start with better sleep hygiene, avoid naps during the day, and limit your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake.
- Engage in regular exercise and follow a consistent sleep schedule.
- Make your bedroom as cool, dark, and quiet as possible (and remove the clutter and electronics).
- Finally, speak to a doctor about the sleep issues you are experiencing. It is essential, especially for women, to get tested if they experience morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, loss of concentration, and traffic accidents. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist and recommend scheduling a sleep test (in a lab or via home sleep tests) to rule out sleep apnea. The most common and non-invasive treatment option is CPAP, consisting of a flow generator device, a mask, and a tube that connects them.
Sleep is a crucial element that is maintaining a healthy body. Understanding why we sleep will tell you how sleep drives the body's growth and healing processes and regulates vital bodily functions and hormones.
(Dr Sibasish Dey: Head, Medical Affairs, Asia and Latin America, ResMed)
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