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Study Shows Sleep Deprivation Affects Women More. How To Optimize Your Sleep Cycle

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“Sssh, I’m activating my tired mode right now”
Quote my boyfriend, 8pm, Monday-Friday.

Person snoozing alarm

It’s Monday morning, you’re running late for that 9am meeting but you have to make a quick stop for a double espresso, right? Well truth of the matter is, no matter how many of those little pick-me ups’ you drink, you’re still going to be tired if you don’t get the right amount of ZZZs.

Monday Sleeping Logo

Between me and you, on average, how many hours a night do you currently sleep for?

Now let’s try this… how many hours a night would you like to sleep for?

Let me guess, for most of you reading this right now, those two numbers didn’t match up. Well, here’s a little insight for you, on average women aged 18-64 should be getting 7-9 hours each night, whilst women 65+ require 7-8 hours.

But age is just a number, right? If we blamed age for our poor sleeping quality and low energy, then every 80-year-old I’ve ever known would be exhausted – truth is, they’re not! Poor sleep is common, but it’s not normal.

Getting the right amount of ZZZs is essential to maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle, yet, we tend to think of sleep as a time when both the body and the mind goes into a shutdown period, and nothing happens in-between. Research disputes this, suggesting sleep to actually be a very active process, whereby a lot of vital processing, restoration and repairing takes place.

So, for us to function optimally within our everyday lives, we ought to ensure that our sleep is as important as removing our makeup, ladies.

Girl in makeup sketch

In fact, a 2007 Study found that women report more sleep disturbances than men, with 50% of women reporting waking up feeling unrefreshed. Results confirmed that lack of sleep affected most aspects of their lives and left them little time for friends and intimate relationships.

Of course, it isn’t just our hectic lifestyles that can cause sleep disturbances; research shows PMS to be another contributing factor. Prior to our monthly cycle, the regular rise and fall of sex hormones can often disrupt sleep (something I can relate to). It is the brief rise in body temperature during this phase that may make it uncomfortable for women to sleep. Likewise, when our sleep cycles are disrupted, both our stress and sex hormones can be impacted… so let’s try and avoid that.

Many of us out there may be blissfully unaware of the importance of sleep, in particular the key function of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Let’s take a closer look at the key components and function of beauty sleep.Girl reading in bed

Sleep Cycles & Importance of REM-sleep

Phase 1: You are beginning to drift off to sleep, you’re feeling relaxed during this several minute period. Your heartbeat, breathing, eye movements slow down, your muscles begin to relax. Do you ever feel like you are twitching or suddenly jump in your sleep? There’s a reason for that, as in this part of the cycle, your brain waves begin to slow from their daytime pattern.

Phase 2: Prepares our bodies for deeper sleep. Heart rate and body temperature will drop, and eye movements will stop. Brain activity fires brief electrical activity but at this point has dramatically slowed down.

Phase 3: The period of deep sleep, you will find it hard to be awoken in this phase as your body begins to repair tissue, bones and strengthen your immune system.

Now, REM sleep begins around 90 minutes into your sleep cycle. REM occurs, and brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing starts to pick up, becoming faster and more irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increases to near waking levels. You will find that most of your dreaming happens during this phase, with both your arms and legs being temporarily paralysed (Yikes!) but this is just to prevent you acting out your dreams.

REM sleep is a significant aspect of the sleep cycle as it stimulates brain areas essential for learning and retaining memory. Likewise, during this phase, your brain exercises key neural connections that are crucial to maintaining sound mental health and overall well-being.

Science lesson over.

So, you have all this information, right. You’re intrigued, and now you’re wondering how to apply it to your own personal sleep cycle. If you find that you’re one of those people who has a mind that tends to work ten to the dozen or maybe you find it difficult to switch off at night, rest assured, you’re not alone.

You can start by…

Candles & Reading

Getting into good habits

Climb into bed roughly the same time each night and you will discover that you no longer need to snooze the alarm three times in a row. Instead, you will discover that slowly but surely you are training your mind to wake at the same time each morning, and are doing so by maintaining a good bed time routine. One of my rituals before I sleep is to write out my to-do list for the following day and tell myself what time I need to be up and moving my body. Try it, it works!

Put down the phone

If you’re thinking about refreshing your Instagram feed or checking your daily love horoscope before bed, think again. Did you know, using backlit devices disrupts your sleep hormone (melatonin) and in turn, unsettles your sleeping pattern. Roughly an hour before bed I do one of the following; read a book, light some candles, write in my diary, or have a conversation with my partner about his day/week/troubles.

Try making your bedroom a tech-free zone at night for one whole week, and record your sleep cycle.

Remember that we are essentially the health of our cells, and cellular repair process takes place when we are sleeping. We need to make sleeping a priority if we want to be the best version of ourselves.Watercolour painted image of sunrise and sunset

Do you have any bedtime rituals? I would love to hear what works for you! 

Also by Victoria: How Liver-Saving Teas Helped Me Get Rid Of My Lifelong PMS

Related: How To Make Moon Milk For The Dreamiest Sleep Yet

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Victoria Bennett

Victoria Bennett

Contributor at Peaceful Dumpling
Originally from the UK, Victoria is a self-proclaimed food enthusiast armed with a BSC in Psychology, who has been on the road for 18 months. When she’s not trying out new vegan dishes, she can be found sipping green tea or practicing yoga on her balcony.
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