WORDS: Alyce Cimino
We may have given away the answer in the heading but the answer is YES! We have been saying it for years, women a wired differently from men. Our hormonal structure is more complex (and we are a little biased but a little bit more magic too!) and this is one of the big considerations when looking at sleep structures and the demand on our bodies.
The research is suggesting that women need an additional 20 minutes more than men each night, and I’m seeing you roll your eyes .. “only 20 minutes you say?” well yes, EXCEPT very few of us are getting enough hours of sleep to start with. We need a minimum of 8 hours + the extra 20 minutes. I know very few ladies out there catching that level of Z’s.
Our hormones are responsible for our emotional health, ovulatory cycle (our menstruation), stress response, metabolic functions and also our very important sleep-wake cycles. Our hormones are responsible for how we feel when we are tired, and when we feel alert. The hormonal changes we experience each month (and throughout each life stage) over the course of a lifetime will also impact our circadian rhythms and therefore affect our sleep and increase our sleep requirements.
It is very much a chicken and egg situation: our hormones affect our quality and duration of sleep, but not enough sleep will affect our hormones.
We also know that for those of us in the early parenting stages, that parents can lose approximately 600hrs of sleep in their first year of having a child! and it is common for families to add another child in the first 12-24 months after their previous pregnancy so that’s a lot of missed hours right there! but also one that’s not exactly 100% avoidable.
FACTORS THAT CAN AFFECT OUR SLEEP
(in no specific order)
- specific hormonal shifts ie: pregnancy & menopause
- different times within the ovulatory cycle; prior to a bleed, prior to ovulation
- menstruation & ovulatory pain and cramping
- hormonal shifts; hot flushes
- parenting and different life stages
- stress, anxiety and mood disorders
- inadequate nutritional demands
- a women’s mental load
CREATING A BETTER SLEEP ROUTINE
Now the highly desired but not so easily achieved, so how do we get the sleep (and the good quality sleep).
- Create your own sleep routine. Set a bed time and stick to it!
- Switch off your phones and work a minimum of 1 hr before bed (ideally longer)
- Use blue blocker glasses when using a computer throughout the day.
- Be prepared. Look ahead for what the tomorrows schedule brings and set it all up, pack bags and lunches the day before. try and clear your mind as much as possible before your head hits the pillow.
- If you like lists, use them. clear your mind and put your to-do list onto paper
- So slow into the evening. have a bath or shower, dim the lights, play gentle music and allow yourself to slow down.
- Take 10 deep breaths each and every evening while laying in bed, before sleep.
- Herbal medicine: I adore herbal medicine and its roll on calming the nervous system, herbs are BRILLIANT here! some of my personal favourites are passionflower, skullcap, chamomile, lavender, oats, zizyphus, withania and kava.