Sleepless nights are hard on women’s hearts

June 24, 2008 by  

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Poor sleep is associated with increased risk for having type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And when it comes to lack of sleep, women’s cardiovascular health suffer the most. A recent study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center shows that women’s hearts and vascular systems are more sensitive to sleep deprivation than men’s.

The results of the study were based on data gathered from 210 healthy middle-aged women and men. All participants had no history of diagnosed sleep disorders. They were all non-smokers, and were not on daily medications.

The participants were categorized as good sleepers and poor sleepers. Poor sleepers are those having problems falling asleep and having frequent disruptions in sleep. 40% of the participants were poor sleepers and these have a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease than the good sleepers. However, poor sleepers who are females exhibited higher levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 and higher levels of insulin then male poor sleepers. C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 are biomarkers for inflammation which are linked to increased risk of heart disease. Insulin levels are biomarkers for type 2 diabetes.

The time it takes to fall asleep seems to be a big factor. Female participants who take a half hour or more to fall asleep had the highest risk.

In a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 % of the female respondents report that they only get a good night’s sleep a few nights a week. 43 % report sleepiness during daytime and this can interfere with their normal daily activities.

There are many reasons why people have sleep shortage. For many women, having children is the main reason for sleep deprivation. As mom of twins, I knew how sleep deprivation sapped me of energy and pushed me into a prolonged postpartum depression. Although that was 5 years ago and my sleeping patterns have since improved, I still suffer from sleep disruptions each time my children awake at night to go to the bathroom. I guess it’s one of the hazards of motherhood.

“We found that for women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress, and greater feelings of hostility, depression and anger. In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men.”

according to head researcher Edward Suarez.

Other causes of sleeplessness in women may be also biological and mainly hormonal in nature. They may include menstrual cramps, hot flashes and irregular menstrual cycles.

In another post, I will be tackling the topic of “sleep hygiene habits.” So if you can’t sleep, stay tuned!

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