I?m sure you?ve heard that it?s important to get a good night?s sleep to be healthy. Sleep restriction can affect your endocrine system (including your adrenal glands, which handle stress) and inflammation (all illnesses ending in "itis"). Now we have new studies with more specific findings. One of them concluded that getting less than seven hours of sleep at night for several nights in a row affects your memory, attention, and mood. It also found that a lack of sufficient sleep can cause depression.
If you?re a woman, you have an added risk: hypertension. Recent research out of the Warwick Medical School (University of Warwick, UK) followed more than 10,000 men and women. The researchers found that women who get less than five hours of sleep at night had double the risk of having high blood pressure than women who sleep seven hours or more. This same lack of sleep doesn?t appear to affect men at all.
This study was the first of its kind to compare the differences between men and women who are sleep-deprived. Since hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease, the researchers concluded that sleep deprivation could lead to other cardiovascular problems.
It appears they were right. When you don?t get enough sleep at night, you?re more likely to be sleepy during the day. This presents another related problem. The Cardiovascular Health Study found there was a significant connection between daytime sleepiness and heart disease. Once again, women fared worse than men. Women who were sleep deprived had more heart attacks and were more likely to die of heart disease than men.
So if you?re having trouble getting to sleep, you might need some help. Taking melatonin supplements before bed can help you get to sleep and stay asleep. But you may not know that bright lights lower your levels of this hormone. One way to prevent insomnia is to dim the lights in your room for half an hour or longer before going to bed.
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And if anxiety is causing you to be restless and awake, try taking Kava or Valerian Root supplements. They can stop your mind from its incessant chattering. For more solutions…
I?ve written a number of health alerts on safe, natural solutions for insomnia. They?re available to newsletter subscribers at no cost on my website. If you?re not getting seven hours of sleep most nights, it?s time to do something about this. It could have a huge impact on your health.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Banks, S and Dinges, DF, "Behavioral and physiological consequences of sleep restriction," J Clin Sleep Med, Aug 15, 2007.
Cappuccino, FP, et al, "Gender-specific associations of short sleep duration with prevalent and incident hypertension. The Whitehall ll Study," Hypertension, Sept 4, 2007.
Newman, AB, et al, "Daytime sleepiness predicts mortality and cardiovascular disease in older adults. The Cardiovascular Health Study Research Group," J Am Geriatr Soc, Feb 2001.