What You Need to Know about Sleep

What You Need to Know about Sleep

Sleep. It’s a basic necessity that everyone finds themselves loathing when younger and full of life, and craving when adulthood sets in. ‘Too little’ is often the consensus when it comes to surveys about sleep, but how much is too little, and is there ever a thing as too much?

In light of World Sleep Day this week, we wanted to gather the research, so you didn’t have to, and you can rest easy knowing what to do to improve your sleep patterns.

The low down

Everyone needs sleep, but sometimes you don’t get enough, and it’s been argued that the economy suffers. Sick days in Australia cost the economy $32.5 billion per annum, with 27% of surveyed sick day causes due to a sleep problem. This sleep deprivation problem affects men and women equally, and can creep into many other aspects of life and be detrimental to health.

So, how does this affect my heart?

It’s interesting to note that too much or too little sleep can have an affect on the heart. Research that focused on sleep duration and quality compared to heart disease and mortality rates, published by John Kwok (et al) in 2018 showed the following:

  • Being outside of the recommended 7-8 hours sleep per night was found to have a significant association with a moderate increase cardiovascular incidence and death. The findings were worse if you were deprived of sleep, but there was still a moderately increased risk with sleeping longer than the recommended time frame.
  • The quality of your sleep was also shown to be an emerging risk factor of cardiovasular diseases.
  • Sleep can also be negatively affected by unemployment, depression, low socioeconomic status, and low physical activity. These situations are thought to contribute to longer sleep.
  • Finally, abnormal sleep patterns are considered a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk factors.

How do women differ from men?

Whilst Sleep Health Foundation surveys show that women have, on average, slightly more sleep than men (by about 15 minutes), women are more likely than men to have trouble falling asleep at night time, and nearly half of women wake up at least once during the night. Also, women are more likely to experience insomnia than men.

It is also important to note, in different stages of life, adverse outcomes are presented much stronger in women. Women who have poor sleep routines tend to gain weight faster than women who have strong sleep routines. At the time of pregnancy, certain factors such as snoring, breathing pauses and sleep disorders can increase health risks, such as blood pressure. This can then affect the baby by potentially not receiving enough oxygen, or being born at a smaller weight.

So, how do I know if I am not sleeping well?

Certain signs of poor sleep health can be shown by:

  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Feeling fatigued in the day
  • Lack of concentration during the day
  • Snoring more regularly
  • Choking and gasping for breath during sleep

Snoring

Snoring can lead to pauses in breath, and, in more severe cases, sleep aponea. Central aponea is an important high risk factor for atrial fibrillation, and so, assessing your risk and managing accordingly is highly recommended. Atrial Fibrillation is a heart condition where the heart beats in a rhythm that is irregular and rapid.

And how do I do something about it?

Some clear, simple steps to improve sleep hygiene can make all the difference when it comes to recharging at night. These strategies include:

  • Having a consistent and regular sleep pattern for going to bed and waking up.
  • Ensuring that your bedroom is cool, comfortable and dark.
  • Ensuring that electronic devices, such as phones and tablets, are not used immediately before bed, and ideally, are not charged in the same room that you are sleeping.

If you need some more tips, download our Sleep Health Infographic here. The Sleep Health Foundation also has some easy to read factsheets focusing on sleep and women’s health across life stages such as; menstrual cycles, pregnancy, new mothers and menopause.

There are other factors mentioned in this article that can affect sleep, such as mental health. If you have experienced similar issues, it would be our advice to consult a doctor, or a suitable medical professional, to see if you can put a plan in place to address these issues, which will positively impact sleep in the future.