Women’s Health and Sleep
I feel sleepy as I write this article. It is hard for me to focus and like many women, when thoughts do not flow out as naturally as I think they should, I become irritated. We all know how important sleep is to our daily functioning. We hear about it all the time. However, some of us are energized in those hours late at night when our families are tucked away snug in their beds and the house is all ours! I can read, watch TV and surf the web to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, I pay for it the next day. And if I am irritable and tired, others around me may pay for it also. Is it worth it? Not really. This choice is neither healthy, nor smart.
For some, sleep deprivation is a choice. For others, it is not. Sleep is a seemingly elusive dream. They desperately want sleep, but their sleep is not deep, restful or rejuvenating.
Research has found that poor sleep in women is related to increased psychological distress and is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Women sleeping poorly also experience feelings of hostility, depression and anger.
Research has also found that the fluctuation of sex hormones throughout a woman’s life and the resulting effect of sleep disordered breathing in women are closely related.
Progesterone is a hormone that is used in many ways by the body. It affects reproduction, mood, appetite, brain function and sexual activity. Progesterone also induces sleep and acts as a respiratory stimulant that keeps the body breathing during sleep.
- Sex hormones influence our sleep-wake cycles, called circadian rhythms.
- Sex hormones regulate sleep in menstruation and pregnancy.
- Sex hormones affect sleep in the Peri- and Post-menopausal stages of a woman’s life.
Understanding the role that female sex hormones play in a woman’s sleep pattern is crucial to her health and well-being. If she is experiencing sleep disordered breathing, diagnosis and treatment is a choice she can make toward healthy sleep and increased enjoyment of life.
Sleep disordered breathing is a serious health problem, and its first appearance is usually indicated by snoring. Quite simply, when we fall asleep and our bodies relax, our lower jaw, tongue and tissues in the back of the throat become infirm and may collapse into the narrow opening of the airway. When air struggles to make its way through these relaxed structures, snoring is the result. Women may experience increased fluid retention in the tissues at the back of the throat during menses and pregnancy. 30% of pregnant women who have never snored in the past, will begin during their second trimester. Weight gain and fluid retention increase risk for sleep disordered breathing.
Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is marked by greater loss of tissue firmness than snoring. Those who suffer from UARS are generally young, female, and may also experience gastro esophageal reflux disorder and/or asthma. Depression and hormonal imbalances are also common in those with UARS.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway becomes completely blocked. The sleeper is essentially holding his or her breath- involuntarily- completely stopping the flow of oxygen to the body. This is when serious and life threatening problems start. Untreated OSA has been associated with heart disease, unexplained high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and death in one’s sleep. The sleeper may wake with their heart racing, often choking or gasping for breath. Persons with OSA are more prone to illness, injury and increased risk of cancer.
Now, You Have A Choice If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of sleep disordered breathing, you have a choice of treatment options including CPAP, surgery and Oral Appliance Therapy. The purpose of the oral appliance is to prevent the jaw from falling back toward the throat and maintain a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. It is covered by most Medical Insurances and Medicare.
Women are all about choices. Sleep does not have to be an elusive dream. It can be a reality. What will you choose?
For more information, contact Dr. Rod Willey at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders. As a general dentist with a Diplomate from the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines and a Diplomate from the American Sleep and Breathing Academy, Dr. Willey has dedicated his practice to the treatment of snoring, sleep apnea, and TMJ Disorders with oral appliance therapy. To contact him call (309) 243-8980 or visit KoalaSleepCenters.com.