Insomnia describes the inability to get enough sleep. This is a subject of interest to many. Getting enough sleep is essential to your health and well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. Lack of sleep is associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity.”
Is it a problem for you to fall asleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep, and find you are waking up in the middle of the night? Do you feel fatigued or sleep deprived in the mornings?
Americans spend an astounding $14 billion per year trying to combat sleeplessness. In fact, many sleep so poorly they feel exhausted during the day. And many say that poor sleep interferes with their daily activities.
Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of health problems.
A lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol. It also reduces your ability to deal with stress. When you have sleep problems and lack sleep the body goes into a state of stress. The increase in stress raises the level of inflammation in the body. This causes more risk for heart-related problems and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to be one of the causes of the deterioration of your body as you age.
The Benefits of Good Sleep
Sleep makes you more alert, gives you more energy and is good for your memory.
Sleep may help you lose weight. Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that a lack of sleep affects the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep.
One Cause of Insomnia is a Hormonal Factor
Sleep problems seem to plague women more often than men, and women in mid-life more than younger women. There is no full accounting for the gender and age differences in sleep disturbances, but hormonal fluctuation is one strong factor.
Although the relationship between female reproductive hormones and sleep patterns is little-explored and not well-researched, many women know the strong connection between the two.
Many women report lying awake for a night or two before their period begins, the time when progesterone levels drop off sharply. Progesterone is the body’s natural relaxation substance.
As women approach mid-life and make the transition from perimenopause to menopause, sleep interruptions can increase. Years before a woman reaches menopause and her estrogen production dwindles, her progesterone levels begin declining. This change in the ratio between progesterone and estrogen may be implicated in sleeplessness during perimenopause and menopause. Progesterone is our relaxing, calming hormone; therefore, it only makes sense that women deprived of it may experience sleep disturbances.
Diet and Lifestyle Culprits Affecting Sleep
While hormones seem to play a very important role, they cannot be held as the sole culprit of sleep disturbances. There are diet and lifestyle issues that affect how well you sleep, including stress.
The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
“You might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep. However, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple tips.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to be well rested.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed, but continue to maintain your sleep schedule and wake-up time.
2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Discomfort might keep you up.
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can interfere with sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
3. Create a restful environment
Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light in the evenings might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.
4. Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to no more than one hour and avoid napping late in the day.
However, if you work nights, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
5. Include physical activity in your daily routine
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. However, avoid being active too close to bedtime.
Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.
6. Manage worries
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.”
If you're finding a good night’s sleep elusive then these diet and lifestyle tips may be worth trying.