Did you get a good night’s sleep last night? What about the night before? Sleep is essential for everyone, but we might argue that it’s especially important for women. Why? Because the bulk of your body’s hormone production and regulation occurs while we sleep.
Why Is Sleep So Important For Women?
We all feel the difference between a good or bad night’s sleep. That’s because sleep is essential for:
● Resting and rejuvenating the body
● Feeling alert and energized
● Metabolic function
● Healthy immune function
● Regulating emotions and moods
● And more!
If you experience insomnia, interrupted sleep, restless leg syndrome, or other disruptive sleep issues, you are at higher risk for both physical and mental health issues.
In most cases, you need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night – whether you know it or not. Sure, many people brag about getting by on six or fewer hours, but “getting by” is not the same as thriving.
5 Tips to Improve Sleep Habits
The first step to improving sleep habits is knowing you aren’t getting a restful night’s sleep. Some people feel like they sleep all night. Still, conditions like sleep apnea or (peri)menopausal night sweats prevent the extended periods of “deep sleep cycles” necessary for proper rest, detoxing, and healing.
Some signs you aren’t getting the high-quality sleep you need include:
● Your partner mentions you’re restless or your legs are jerking in your sleep
● Waking up with a chronically dry mouth or a dry throat
● Snoring or heavy (audible) breathing
● Feeling tired or depleted when you wake up in the morning
● Waking up more than twice per night to urinate (possibly due to frequent urination)
● Falling asleep (or feeling like you could) during the daytime hours
If any of these apply to you, get to the bottom of the issue. Start by following these healthy sleepy hygiene tips. If they aren’t effective, speak to your physician or your OB/GYN so they can look further into why you aren’t able to get a good night’s sleep.
1. Maintain consistent sleep and wake times
This isn’t always that easy. If you have younger children, it may feel like those nighttime hours are the only precious “self-time” you get in a day. That said, if you’re staying awake even after you feel tired, you’re compromising the quality of your sleep time.
Start maintaining consistent sleep and wake times seven days a week. This is the best way to restart your circadian rhythm. If you’re serious about it, we recommend giving up television and screens for two full weeks (14 days) after sunset.
When you feel tired, go to bed (even if it feels ridiculously early). When you wake up in the morning, get out of bed (even if it is before you need to). Do this every day for 14 days, and by the end, your sleep and wake times will “find” their natural place in your circadian rhythm, helping you to establish sleep/wake time for the future.
2. Get some type of physical exercise every day
Many of us spend our workdays in sedentary jobs, which means our brains are tired, but our bodies may have extra energy. Get at least some exercise in each day via walking the dog, doing laps while kids are at athletic practice, parking far away and walking quickly to the buildings on your daily route, hiking or biking on the weekends, taking an exercise class, having dance parties with the kids, etc.
In addition to helping you sleep at night, your regular exercise routine benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health.
3. Avoid stimulants after noon
It’s not uncommon to develop a heightened sensitivity to stimulants as we age, directly impacting sleep quality. So, while you may have been able to drink coffee or tea all day and night in your 20s or early 30s, odds are your body is more sensitive to caffeine and other stimulants than you realize.
Weed out stimulants after noon or 1:00 p.m., and odds are the quality of your sleep will improve. Examples of stimulants include:
● Caffeine (including chocolate)
● Sugar and refined carbohydrates
● Alcohol (yes, it may make you drowsy initially, but the blood sugar imbalance leads to heart palpitations and interrupted sleep)
● Electronic devices (yes! This is a stimulant, too. See next…)
4. Commit to screen-free time for at least 30 minutes before bed
Melatonin is one of the sleep hormones released by the body in response to the sunrise/sunset cycle. Artificial light negatively impacts melatonin production because the brain associates almost any light with sunlight. Unfortunately, this includes the blue light emitted by the TV, phones, and other electronic gadgets.
● Commit to at least 30 minutes of screen-free time before bed to let your brain unwind and benefit from natural, adequate melatonin production. Other tips to minimize light exposure as you relax and drift off to sleep include:
● Changing all nighttime lighting to the red light spectrum
● Using heavy window coverings to block ambient light
● Putting tape or other light-blocking material over any blinking or permanent lights in the bedroom (like TVs, printers, chargers, digital alarm clock, etc.
● Keep your cell phones OUT of the bedroom to avoid the temptation to “check one more thing….”
5. Create a soothing bedtime routine
Don’t let the bedtime routine stop when the kids get older. Our bodies love to have predictable routines that guide our energized or resting times. Creating a soothing bedtime ritual helps the brain and body to relax, unwind, and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
● Take a warm shower or bath
● Dim household lights
● Play calm, soothing music
● Use guided meditations or Yoga Nidras for sleep
● Using essential oils known to promote relaxation and sleep (lavender, Ylang Ylang, Chamomile, or a sleep-focused blend)
● Read a “real” book with pages rather than on a device with backlit screens
● Use breath-based relaxation techniques such as following slow breaths in/out and letting your thoughts go without judgment or emotional hooks or counting for longer on the exhale than the inhale.
Schedule an Appointment at Women’s Health Associates
Are you having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep? Schedule an appointment with Women’s Health Associates. In addition to helping you correct any issues contributing to poor sleep quality, we can recommend other tips and supplements to get your sleep back on track.