The ABC’s of getting some Zzzzz’s

Exhausted. That’s how many women tell me they feel.  Often, they’re so worn out by day’s end they fall asleep before their head touches the pillow.  But staying asleep all night?  Now that’s another story.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies indicate that while most healthy people require 7-9 hours of sleep each night, women between the ages of 30 and 60 get just over 6.4 hours on average.

Women are more likely to report feeling daytime fatigue, which affects their mood and productivity.  Aside from chronic daytime fatigue, lack of adequate sleep has far reaching physical, psychological and even career ramifications.  (It’s tough to perform when you’re chronically sleep deprived; and many women are trying to build careers while simultaneously raising families.)

So why does it seem women everywhere are staring at the clocks at 3 a.m.?  The culprits of sleep-theft are varied:

Hormones: Women’s hormones are constantly changing along with seasons of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.  During the course of each month and over her lifetime, a woman’s fluctuating hormone levels, including estrogen and progesterone, make an impact on sleep.

Crying newborns: Seems women forgo sleep to meet the demands of family life, even 2.5 times more likely then men to get up to attend to a newborn, for example.  Seems that continued gender inequality women experience in family life impacts the amount of sleep they get.

Lifestyle, Diet, & Emotional Factors: Poor nutrition, evening shift work, stress, anxiety, excess weight, lack of exercise, and depression or other psychological factors  also impact a good night’s rest.

Sleep Disorders: Some 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders such as Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).  Previous studies focused more on men, so newer efforts to study women may reveal better solutions.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to a better night’s sleep. With a few changes in your routine, it is possible to get the rest you need to work, care for your family and achieve better health to fight infections.  The biggest challenge is to prioritize your own health enough to stave off the to-do lists, and ask for help with household responsibilities.  (Delegate more chores to the kids, too!)

Try these and get some Zzzz’s:

-Create a regular schedule for sleep/wake times and stick to it; wind down for an hour before you hit the sheets.  Read, meditate, drink some decaf herbal tea, or listen to relaxing music

-Get plenty of exercise; it wears out your body and offers release for stress that can keep your mind busy; Yoga is especially helpful

-Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables; consume alcohol or caffeinated drinks in moderation

Improve your sleep environment; clear the bedroom of clutter, make sure the lighting is low and the temperature’s comfortable

-Try over the counter sleep aids if nothing seems to work

See your doctor if your sleep habits don’t improve to rule out a sleep disorder or to determine if further medication is necessary

Bear in mind that lack of sleep doesn’t just make you feel tired and cranky. it can make you sick over time.  Lack of adequate sleep can lead to a range of health problems.  Preserving your own health is not only good for you; its good for your family!