Women Need a Good Night’s Sleep
Does insomnia affect men and women differently? What happens with chronic sleep deprivation? Many diseases are linked to sleep problems and recent research reveals women are affected more than men.
Duke University studied sleep habits in healthy men and women. Tests were monitored: insulin and glucose, C reactive protein and interleukin 6 (inflammatory immune proteins that contribute to cardiovascular disease), fibrinogen (a clotting indicator) and insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes). Levels of depression, hostility and anger were recorded.
Conventional medicine calls this pattern “the deadly quintet” – insulin resistance and high cholesterol which are often linked to obesity, high glucose and blood pressure. If you have any of the “terrible triplet” of hyper coagulation (high fibrinogen or other tests), immune dysfunction or kidney dysfunction, your risks become very high. Conventional medicine knows, unless lifestyle changes are made and the causes treated, most patients will eventually need 8-9 prescription drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cholesterol, with increasing costs and side effects. Perhaps if people improved sleep through lifestyle changes or safe treatments, they could lower risks or prevent all this.
In women, the Duke studies showed a strong association between poor sleep and higher lab test values. Women with trouble falling or staying asleep had much higher risks for stroke, heart disease, vascular diseases and diabetes. Women were more overweight and had more depression and hostility with disturbed sleep. Further studies are needed to confirm that improving sleep in women can reduce the risks of stroke, heart disease, vascular diseases and diabetes, but I advise patients to make lifestyle changes and work together to find safe methods to improve and restore restful sleep.
Here’s what happens with chronic sleep problems in women. Higher levels of fasting insulin and glucose with higher levels of insulin resistance contribute to obesity, stroke, circulation diseases and diabetes. High levels of fibrinogen, C-reactive protein or interleukin 6 contributes to blood clots or progressive silent internal immune dysfunction that contributes to circulation problems, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Higher levels of hostility and depression disrupts serotonin and norepineneprine, which contributes to obesity, heart disease and a wide range of psychological, hormonal and metabolic problems.
In other words, when sleep is disturbed in women, diabetes risks increase because the body does not process glucose properly and insulin levels are consistently high, instead of spiking only after meals. Disturbed sleep is a form of stress that causes silent but treatable conditions that can lead to preventable strokes, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Many people fear drugs for insomnia because of the potential for addiction. Other people take the opposite approach and demand prescriptions but complain if they become addicted. While a prescription could be help, particularly if used short term or judiciously, there are lifestyle changes and alternative treatments to improve sleep. These might take longer than quick fix drugs, but they are safer and tend to lower risk factors for stroke, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, while helping with depression and hostility and perhaps obesity.
David Overton, PA-C works at Natural Medicines & Family Practice providing integrated conventional and alternative care under the supervision of Dr. Richard Faiola, MD, ABFM. 360-357-8054 or website: natmeds.net.