Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men
but we have more issues with sleep
Women appear to need more sleep, but the nature of the relationship between sex, gender, and sleep is still unclear.
Women Are More Likely to Have Sleep Problems
Hormonal shifts in menstruation and menopause along with higher rates of anxiety and depression, may make women more susceptible to sleep problems and sleep disorders throughout their lives.
Women tend to sleep slightly more than men, but get less undisturbed, quality sleep. As theye often act as caregivers, whether to children or to ailing family members. This often means they sacrifice sleep and stay awake later to attend to others’ needs.
Women appear to have slightly shorter circadian rhythms in their daily cycles of body temperature and the release of melatonin, a hormone that signals the timing of sleep. This may contribute to women spending more time asleep and having higher rates of sleep issues.
Women have a 40% higher chance of insomnia than men and are more than twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of restless leg syndrome.
The Added Effect of Menopause
60% of women have reported sleep disturbance through the menopause transition. And amongst my own clients it is the most reported problem that impacts not just the night time but flows through into being able to function in the day time. Think brain fog, anxiety, fatigue and mood swings. As well as weight gain.
Hot flashes, anxiety and depression, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome along with back and joint pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Declining estradiol and progesterone levels can make it harder to fall asleep, sleep through the night, or get high-quality sleep. Perimenopause can also be a time of mast cell activation or high histamine, which further worsens sleep.
Additionally, as the body ages, it produces less of the sleep hormone melatonin. This drop is especially pronounced in the lead-up to menopause, which may contribute to sleep disturbances.
Treating Sleep Disturbances in Menopause Naturally
Thee are some of the most commonly used approaches many of which are backed by numerous scientific studies.
Yoga: Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines movement, controlled breathing, and meditation. Research indicates that it can help reduce hot flashes as well as anxiety and depression in people going through menopause.
Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness is a contemplative practice that cultivates non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Menopausal people who meditate have reported less-bothersome hot flashes, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvements in their sleep.
Traditional Chinese Medicine using a combination of herbs, Qigong, dietary therapy and acupuncture has been found to be highly effective in supporting sleep. Certain Qigong practices have been found to impact the pineal gland which produces melatonin.
Supplementation: Naturopathic doctor Lara Briden recommends one or more of the nutritional supplements that calm GABA receptors in the brain. They include magnesium, taurine, vitamin B6, and the amino acid glycine.
Good sleep hygiene practices such as daily exercise, morning light, and sleeping in a cool dark room are a great place to start.
Stay tuned for the upcoming podcast conversation with guest Dr Valerie Cacho as we delve deeper in sleep in the menopause years (coming June 13th)
NEWS AND VIEWS
In case you missed it yesterday was International Tea Day. If you are one of those that find your coffee brings on hot flashes, sleepless and more than tea might be an alternative. And some beyond the usual black and green teas which I regularly recommend from a TCM perspective it is worth exploring:
Licorice - calming
Chamomile or lavender - sleep promotion
Valerian - calm anxiety
Ginseng - promotes libido, bones strengthening
Red Raspberry - reduces heavy bleeding
Mint or Ginger - settles the digestion
Gingko Biloba - phytoestrogen and reduces brain fog
Despite the over certainty of some people especially in the UK around HRT it is heartening to see a group of passionate people come together to provide accurate evidence-based information on menopause. Diane Danzebrink, Fiona Clark and Dr Vikram Talaulikar, have launched the Menopause Research & Education Fund. Their mission is to fund research into menopause, education for health professional to make sure women have access to accurate and evidence-based information about menopause and health.
Some of the most pressing questions they will be addressing includes
– Does testosterone improve cognition or affect stroke or heart disease risk?
– What is the long term safety profile of HRT in women after 60?
– What are the most effective treatment options for those who’ve had cancer?
Last week was Mental Health Awareness week and a great time to dial up the gut-brain axis conversation. Clinical nutritionist and gut microbiome specialist Natalie Woodman joined me to on the Thriving Thru Mneopause podcast to talk about gut health, menopause and the role of stress. One big fact jumped out that while we may be aiming to more kimichi, kefir, probiotics and the like the impact on gut microbiome is far less than practising effective stress management. 70% of the improvement we can see in our gut flora comes from addressing our chronic stress and only 30% from all those diet changes. Some to think about….You can hear the full conversation here
That’s all from me this week. I am heading off to learn about Gua Sha for supporting aches, pains, stress, anxiety and more with acupuncturist Martin Boman if I can work out how to get to Jönköping in under 4 hours (sometimes Swden is just too big)