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In The News

Paula Schweitzer, PhD, St. Luke's Hospital

How to get a good night's rest

Do you feel tired, fatigued or exhausted? There's a good chance you're not getting enough sleep. You're not alone. According to recent National Sleep Foundation polls, about one woman out of four reports getting less sleep than she needs, and about two out of five women report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities.

If you work outside the home and have children, you're even more likely to get less sleep. You oversee the health of everyone else in the family but neglect your own well-being.

Once in bed, sleep may be disrupted by children, pets or a snoring spouse. This is compounded by monthly hormonal changes which can disturb sleep or cause mood swings which may further impair sleep. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause are even more disruptive.

Sleep disorders and other health conditions can also compromise sleep quality. Insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or having non-refreshing sleep, occurs twice as often in women as in men. Chronic insomnia is a risk factor for high blood pressure and mood disorders such as depression. Sleep apnea, a disorder usually associated with men, is very common in postmenopausal women as well as in younger women who are overweight. Characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

What should a woman do?
  1. Make sleep a priority. Schedule sleep time just like you schedule everything else. Taking care of your own sleep needs helps you function better at home and at work. Sleep deprivation makes you more prone to illness, accidents and weight gain.
  2. Turn the computer and TV off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. You make sure your young children have time to wind-down before bedtime with a bath or story. Do the same for yourself by not bringing work and daytime cares to bed with you.
  3. Take care of your body. Exercise and good nutrition can help you sleep. All three (yes, even sleep!) can help control your weight. Avoid exercise, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol too close to bedtime because they can be alerting.
  4. Consult your doctor if you have persistent problems with sleep or daytime fatigue.
Paula Schweitzer, PhD, is the director of research at St. Luke's Sleep Medicine and Research Center. Call 314-205-6030 or visit her Meet the Team page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 4, 2010.