Why is an obstetrician and gynaecologist writing about women’s sleep you may well ask? The answer is easy: because good sleep is not optional. Every woman needs a certain level of sleep. Sleep is one of the four essential activities you need to perform to live, let alone live well.
The other three?
- Eating food
- Drinking fluids (water)
Poor-quality sleep impacts adversely on health in general, and a woman’s gynaecological health in particular.
Put simply, a chronic lack of sleep will mess up the hormones. Big time.
What is considered good sleep?
Just as everyone is subtly different, the amount of sleep you require will vary with age, as well as your activity levels. A rough guide would be young children need 10-12, teenagers, 8-10 hours, adults 7-8 hours, and older people, say over 50 need around 6-7 hours. This might sound easy, but our modern society has been waging a creeping war on sleep for centuries particularly during the last decade or two.
Why is it getting harder to sleep for the average person?
There are many factors, but shift work, evening television, alcohol, caffeine, stimulant drugs, life stresses at home or work, and illness play a role. However, mobile phones or tablets, and the fondness we have for social media (substitute fondness for addiction if you like) have worsened the situation. Endless studies around the globe show we are sleeping less, to our detriment.
What is the effect of lack of sleep on gynaecological health?
The majority of women will struggle at some point in their reproductive lives with issues that are annoying and repetitive. For some it will be menstrual pain and heavy periods, for others it will be premenstrual syndrome. Many women will find various challenges around day to day life during menopause. And let’s not forget pregnancy and the postnatal months with a new baby.
A key simple strategy to help deal with these phases is simply getting enough sleep.
Sleep is restorative for every system in the body and particularly the brain.
It seems as if during sleep the bodies repair and immune systems go to work repairing the previous days wear and tear. Chronic lack of sleep affects mood adversely and may lead to depression. And plenty of research suggests lack of sleep is bad for the cardiovascular system: or put simply heart health.
Tips for women to get better sleep
You probably know most of them, but sometimes looking at this list of sleep tips again might encourage you to act on one or two measures.
- Try most days of the week to have a typical time you retire to bed and a typical time you get up.
- Don’t consume any caffeine after about 4 or 5pm: it is a stimulant and will impact your sleep.
- Be careful with alcohol: plenty of alcohol-free days help. Heavy alcohol use disrupts REM cycles (your bodies sleep rhythms).
- Reduce screen time in bed. The bright light from screens stimulates the brain to think it’s daytime.
- When you go to bed try not to watch or read anything too heavy and serious as this will stimulate the brain: this subject matter is better dealt with at the start of the day.
- Regular modest exercise seems to help. You don’t need to be a hardcore athlete: simply walking daily relaxes the mind.
- Maybe your mattress is really old or the pillows have had it: sometimes replacing those is a quick fix
I’ve tried everything and I am still sleeping badly.
Don’t ignore your ongoing poor sleep: it isn’t normal.
Physical illness and chronic depression can cause insomnia: both of these are common, potentially dangerous and need to be treated, or things will simply get worse.
Please see your general practitioner and evaluate what is happening in your life that has led to insomnia. There are many strategies that will help.
To make an appointment to discuss your gynaecological health, please contact the rooms today.
This article has been written by Dr Peter England – Expert Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. Read more about Dr Peter England
For more information on gynaecological issues, please read the latest blog posts or make an appointment via our contact form.