By: Guest Author
Published: June 12, 2019
Written by Emma Lymn- Guest Contributor
Menopause messes with sleep. Because of the hormonal changes, it causes all sorts of symptoms that can make it harder to get a good night’s rest.
In addition to insomnia, hot flashes often add to the problem. Together, they can make it hard to fall asleep. This leaves you tossing and turning in bed, at times drenched in sweat.
As a result, you wake up tired, irritable and stressed. None of which let you start the day right.
While it may be hard to get good quality sleep because of menopause, it’s important to figure out what lifestyle changes you can make to help you sleep better. A few ways to do so include adding exercise to your daily routine, using hormone replacement therapy or keeping your sleep environment cool.
That’s because sleep offers many benefits. Besides allowing you to rest and wake up refreshed, a lot of other things happen in your body as you sleep. All of which makes you a healthier, happier person.
It Helps You Live Longer
We all want to live a long life. More importantly, we like to enjoy a healthy one. That lets us do what we want and live life the way we want to.
One of the biggest secrets of a long, healthy life is getting enough sleep. To understand how sleep affects longevity, one study gathered more than 21,000 twins and followed them over the span of 22 years.
Twins were the ideal subjects for this particular research because they had the same genetic makeup. Most of them also grew up together, lived in the same communities and experienced the same environments. This made them very similar to one another. Thus, making it easier to see whether the amount of sleep you get is associated with your lifespan.
Interestingly, the researchers found that participants who slept less than 7 hours or more than 8 hours nightly, had a 17% and 24% higher risk, respectively, of dying earlier. Similarly, those who took sleep medication to help themselves fall asleep also had a 33% higher risk of mortality.
What’s the cause?
It’s because as you sleep your body is very busy working. Sleep allows your body to repair itself, recover and get some rest. Together, they help you stay healthy.
- Enough sleep keeps your immune system strong. This prevents you from getting sick easily. Illness, in any way shape or form, is harmful to your health. A weak immune system also makes you more susceptible to serious health conditions as well as chronic diseases.
- It allows your organs to function properly. While it may not seem like it, your body is very active while you slumber. However, no one sees it because everything is happening inside. Besides your immune system, getting the right amount of sleep lets your cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems function properly. This allows them to keep your body in balance (homeostasis). In doing so, it not only keeps you from getting sick, but it also prevents long-term health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease.
- Good sleep keeps your brain healthy. While you sleep, one of the things your brain does is get rid of harmful toxins. This keeps them from accumulating. Just imagine how much can collect over the span of a lifetime. As a result, this tidying up process protects your brain from age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- It prevents aging. Premature skin aging is one negative effect of sleep deprivation. At a physical level, it causes wrinkles, dries your skin and makes it less supple. More importantly, it also causes cell aging. Research shows that not getting enough sleep can shorten telomeres, which are the caps at the end of your chromosomes. When telomeres get too short, they become unable to divide. This prevents them from being able to replenish or repair themselves. When this happens, you age faster.
Sleep Improves Learning and Memory
In addition to clearing all the unwanted toxins, sleep also allows your brain to consolidate things you’ve learned and experienced. This is why it isn’t a good idea to procrastinate or do all-nighters right before exams, project deadlines or presentations.
Learning and remembering things require 3 different phases. All of which are important. These are:
- Acquisition. This is when you acquire the information or something new. It can be someone telling you, something you just read or heard. To do so, you rely on your senses, including seeing, hearing and touching. Through them, you experience stimuli which your brain processes.
- Consolidation. While acquisition happens when you’re awake, a lot of the information consolidation in your brain happens during sleep. This is when your brain connects all the tiny bits of information to help you understand things. And, more importantly, see the “big picture”. It also allows you to analyze what you’ve learned from different perspectives, which is why you sometimes wake up with an “aha” moment. That’s when you suddenly remember where you left the keys you couldn’t find earlier or suddenly solve a problem you couldn’t do before going to bed.
- Recall. Finally, there’s recall. Information becomes useful if you can remember it and use it when the moment arises. Thanks to the consolidation phase, you’re able to understand things better. And, as you already know, it’s always easier to remember things when you understand how they work and not just from pure memorization.
In all of these phases of learning and memory, your brain plays an active role. And, at the center of it all is sleep which allows it to put everything together.
In contrast, sleep deprivation not only deters your ability to learn and remember things, but it also negatively affects your focus and concentration. Research shows that lack of sleep affects “selective attention”. That is, your ability to focus on a specific thing when everything else is happening around you.
An example of selective attention would be texting on your cellphone while walking down the street. While this isn’t safe to do, it shows your ability to focus solely on your phone while people are taking or walking by, and cars honking their horns.
One of the reasons for this is that not getting enough sleep makes you tired. In addition, you aren’t able to get any reprieve from the stresses in life. This includes physical, emotional, mental and psychological. All of which makes it harder to focus and concentrate.
It Affects Your Weight and Appetite
One of the things not many people know is that sleep, your weight, and appetite are very closely related. So, if you’re trying to maintain your weight or shed a few pounds, it’s important to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Research shows that people who slept less than 7 hours a night only lost half as much weight as those who got enough sleep. This, despite the fact that both groups were on the same diet plan.
Similarly, an erratic sleep schedule where you sometimes sleep more than 8 hours and then sleep less than 7 hours for weeks at a time also makes it hard on your body. Doing so throws off your body’s internal clock. This can make it hard to fall asleep some nights and cause you to feel drowsy during the day.
When this happens, it also makes it hard for your body to regulate itself, causing your weight to seesaw up and down depending on whether you’re getting enough sleep or not.
Additionally, sleep deprivation does a number on your hormones. Among the many hormones that are affected are those that regulate your appetite, specifically leptin and ghrelin.
- Leptin plays a key role in regulating appetite, metabolism and when your body burns calories. It is what signals your brain to tell you that you’re full. Thus, it’s time for you to stop eating. When you’re sleep deprived, your leptin levels go down. This allows your brain to keep thinking you’re still not full even after you’ve eaten your normal meal. And, because your body needs an alternative source of energy to take the place of sleep, it turns to food instead.
- Ghrelin does the opposite of what leptin does. It signals hunger. And, in doing so, tells you when to eat. It also causes your body conserve calories in case you need the extra energy later. When you don’t get enough sleep, your ghrelin levels go up. Too much ghrelin makes you feel hungry all the time. It also keeps your body from burning more calories. As a result, you not only eat more, you also retain more fat.
About the Author
Emma Lymn is the editor of Health Grinder (www.healthgrinder.com), a health and nutrition blog. She is passionate about helping others learn to eat healthy and lose weight. A proud mom of two kids and a very spoiled dog, she enjoys traveling and volunteering in her spare time.
The views expressed herein this article, written by a guest contributor, do not necessarily represent those of the Red Hot Mamas organization. The content is for informational purposes and should not substitute the advice of your doctor.