What good does sleep do?
It should come as no surprise when I say that sleep is an opportunity for rest and recuperation. It allows the brain and body to recover after the wear-and-tear endured during the day’s activities and should allow us to wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go once again.
A lack of sleep not only makes it more difficult to function throughout the day, it also has a number of surprising implications for our health too. It has for example, been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as fluctuations in mood and irritability.
The circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm is also known as our 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. This is what keeps us awake during the day and has us feeling tired when darkness rolls around once again. Although the circadian rhythm is well established in all of us, recent evidence has begun to suggest that the male circadian rhythm may be a little different to that of a woman’s.1
One particular study measured the body temperature and melatonin levels of 157 individuals in order to track their circadian rhythm. The results showed that the female circadian rhythm tended to run earlier and shorter than that of a man’s. This meant they were more likely to fall asleep earlier and wake earlier, and that their energy levels were less sustainable.
Does tiredness ever make it difficult for you to get through your personal and professional workload? Well, you’re not alone as another study has indicated that women deal better with lack of sleep that their male counterparts.2
The research, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, shows that although performance decreased for both men and women when they were subjected to sleep restrictions, men functioned less well, plus they also took longer to recover from the effects of disrupted sleep too. Also, it’s worth noting that when participants were given two nights with ten hours of sleep (just like many of us get at the weekend when having a lie in), their performance still did not improve. So, perhaps that lie in is not as beneficial as we might have hoped!
When it comes to sleep, another difference between the sexes is the amount of time they spend in each of the five stages of sleep. These stages help your body do the repair work necessary after a day’s activities and they play a big part in our mood and tiredness levels the next day.
Additional research has highlighted that women spend more time than men in a stage of sleep known as ‘deep sleep’.3 In this stage the repair work is carried out, plus it’s an important time for the immune system which needs this opportunity to recover in order to stay in tip-top shape! As men spend less time in deep sleep, this could explain why women have an advantage over them when it comes to performing when sleep deprived.
Although sleep disorders like sleep apnoea can occur in both men and women, this particular problem is more common amongst men. In fact, it is estimated that men are as much as two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnoea than women.4
The condition interrupts sleep because the walls of the throat relax and narrow at this time thus affecting the individual’s ability to breathe. Other symptoms associated with sleep apnoea include loud snoring, noisy, laboured breathing and short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping.5
It is unclear exactly when men are more prone to sleep apnoea but if you are concerned you may have it then I’d definitely recommend you visit your doctor for some further advice.
Finally, although there are many differences between men and women when it comes to sleep, if your partner suffers from a sleep problem it is likely to affect you too. After all, snoring, tossing and turning and getting up in the middle of the nigh aren’t exactly inductive to a good night’s sleep! So, have a read of my tips below, or visit our sleep hub, for some advice on how to sleep better.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
Avoid alcohol – alcohol disrupts the sleep-wake cycle and in doing so it can affect the quality of your sleep. That’s because although alcohol may help you to fall asleep quicker, once you are asleep you’ll spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep where all the restorative work is done. This means the next day you’re not only likely to have a hangover to deal with, you’ll also be more likely to feel tired as well.6
Keep a regular bedtime – research has shown that 7% of Brits don’t have a regular bedtime but this is definitely not a trend to follow as it could contribute to low energy levels and poor sleep. You don’t have to switch off at 8pm sharp but give yourself a window, say between 10pm and 11pm, to wind down and get to bed.
Switch off your gadgets an hour before you go to sleep – tablets, tvs, phones and computers have become a well-established feature of our evening routines but again, these things are not exactly helpful when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. This type of technology emits a blue light which keeps you awake and reduces your production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Read a book – instead of turning to technology to unwind at the end of the day I’d recommend you get started on a good book. This is a relaxing activity that should help you drift off to sleep a little easier.
Invest in blackout curtains – this can be particularly helpful if you work shifts that mean you have to catch up on sleep during the day. For the rest of us however, blackout curtains will help to block out any bright light during the summer months, as well as any street lamps that are annoyingly positioned outside the bedroom window.
Soak in the bath – like reading a book, this is another relaxing activity that can promote a better night’s sleep.
Try some lavender – many people swear that, when rubbed on their pillow, lavender makes them feel sleepy. Therefore, if you want to encourage sleep in a more natural way, this may be a good option.
Use Dormeasan – this is A.Vogel’s very own herbal remedy made from freshly harvested and organically grown Valerian and Hops. These herbs help to restore a natural sleep, plus they don’t come with any of the troublesome side effects of traditional sleep medications.