As the world gets busier day by day, many Americans fail to get enough quality sleep. In fact, lots of people are ready to sacrifice bedtime to catch up on daily tasks. The problem of insufficient sleep has become a huge concern and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now considers it an epidemic along with obesity. Approximately 50-70 million U.S. adults have sleep problems, according to the CDC. Gallup supports this data stating that 40 percent of U.S. adults sleep less than seven to nine hours as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Only 59 percent of U.S. adults meet that benchmark.
Lack of sleep is viewed as the cause of major disasters that have claimed and destroyed many lives. Less than the ideal sleep duration leads to difficulty concentrating, poor memory and other cognitive problems. These reduce productivity and result in accidents and man-made calamities. Lack of sleep also leads to a host of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer. According to a paper presented at ENDO 2015, the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting in San Diego, sleeping 30 minutes less than the ideal on weekdays can boost diabetes and obesity.
Effects To Skin
Insufficient sleep is a major factor that speeds up the body’s aging process. As such, it can lead to many skin-related problems like dull skin, premature wrinkles and bags under the eyes. Sleep experts say that deep sleep allows the body to do two essential processes to produce healthy and glowing skin: cell repair and release of growth hormones. Decreased cell repair function can boost the body’s inflammatory response, causing more acne and increased skin sensitivity. In addition, more inflammatory cells in the body mean further breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the chemicals that give bounce, glow, and translucency to the skin.
Sleep deprivation disrupts hormone balance in the body. Therefore, sleeping less prompts the body to secrete more cortisol, the stress hormone. Excessive cortisol in the body can destroy skin collagen, the protein responsible for a smooth and elastic skin. Sleep loss also lessens human growth hormones that help thicken skin, increase body mass, and strengthen the bones. Moreover, lack of sleep leads to poor water balance, resulting in dull and dry skin. In addition, poor water balance in the body causes bags under the eyes and premature wrinkles.
Post-menopausal Sleep Problems
Adults, across all age groups, need eight hours of sleep on average. But elderly people are having a more difficult time falling asleep. Compared to their younger days, they have more trouble staying asleep. Approximately 50 percent of seniors have no problem sleeping. Seniors are light sleepers and their sleep efficiency – amount of time spent in bed as opposed to the number or hours spent in sleeping – falls at a rate of three percent per decade after they reach the age of 60. Lower sleep efficiency means shortened time in deep sleep.
For senior women, the effects of post-menopause contribute to sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation states that postmenopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep and as many as 61 percent of them have symptoms of insomnia. Doctors cite hormone problems in women as the reason for lesser sleep satisfaction. Their fluctuating estrogen levels produce hot flashes and night sweats that disturb the sleep cycle. Drop in estrogen levels may also lead to sleep apnea, a condition that interferes with breathing during the night. Moreover, lowered progesterone levels in postmenopausal women are linked to insomnia.
During post-menopause, disruptions in women’s psychological condition results in sleep problems. The changes in their bodies before and during menopause may bring anxiety, depression, and stress that hinders the body to relax.
Tips for Better Sleep
To maintain a daily dose of sound sleep, do the following tips:
- Engage in more physical activities. A daily exercise routine is a great way to induce deep sleep. Just make sure it is done less than an hour before going to bed.
- Make relaxation methods a part of life. Stress and anxiety often make sleep difficult for most people, especially the elderly. Meditation, yoga, proper breathing, and other relaxation activities calm the muscles and nerves, and cues the body to release the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Make the bed and bedroom a place only for sleep and sex. Almost a third of the day should be devoted to sleep. Thus, the bedroom should be comfortable and free from distractions. Make sure the bed and mattress are also comfortable for a restful sleep.
- Get enough exposure to sunlight. Daylight exposure regulates the sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Sunlight cues the body to increase production of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a molecule in the body that regulates sleep and melatonin keeps the body’s circadian rhythm in check. Be careful about getting too much sun exposure as it will trigger age spots. Using sunscreen can prevent current age spots from multiplying or enlarging in size.
- Put daily activities in order as this can greatly reduce stress and anxiety.
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it even during weekends. Going to bed and waking up at a specific time every day will keep the circadian cycle in order.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal, smoking as well as drinking alcohol and caffeine a few hours before bedtime. While these activities may satisfy the appetite, they can wreak havoc on the sleeping pattern.
- Consult a doctor. Always discuss sleep problems with a doctor because there are some health conditions and medications that can disturb the sleeping pattern. A hormone imbalance during post-menopause also causes serious inconveniences including much-needed sleep. A doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy to restore the decreased estrogen and progesterone levels.
There is no alternative to daily quality sleep to improve health and beauty. A restful sleep not only retains health in postmenopausal life, but it also revitalizes skin to regain a healthy glow.
George Shanlikian MD is the medical director of Genemedics Health Institute. He is a national leader in the field of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) and preventative medicine.
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