Who Needs Sleep?

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. ~Irish Proverb

So at the beginning of the month, my brother-in-law was getting married.  Naturally, his sister and I would be going.  The catch was that we had busy work days before the wedding and we were taking the red eye into the mainland.  This is never the best option, but in our case offers the least number of layovers and lowest cost getting from here to the D.C. area.  Of course there was a delay, but we ultimately got to her parents’ place around dinner time the next day.  At this point, we had been up almost 36 hours and still had the festivities around meeting the bride’s parents and family, which was wonderful, and then going out for the rehearsal dinner.  By the time all the events were done, we were finally crawling into bed around 11:00pm, and we had now been awake for over 40 hours. With exception to grabbing an hour on the one flight from Puerto Rico into Ft. Lauderdale and another hour from Ft. Lauderdale into Baltimore, we honestly didn’t, by any means, get ‘a good night’s rest.’  But some interesting things were happening.  She, my lady, was falling apart.  I was, on the other hand, cruising!  I even was thinking of all those military training documentaries where they show all the sleep-deprived soldiers.  If it wasn’t for the whole 30-mile-forced marches-with-120-pounds-of-gear-on-my-back…I’d be a rock star with the lack of sleep.  I say this because going 40-plus hours without sleep is really extreme, by anybody’s standards, and is certainly something I do not advocate!  It just happened to help drive home the point, on a very personal level, the importance of sleep… especially to the fairer sex.

So this is now where this public service announcement comes into play.  In a Duke study done back in 2008, the researchers found:

Their study, appearing online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, “Found that poor sleep is associated with greater psychological distress and higher levels of biomarkers associated with elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also found that these associations are significantly stronger in women than in men” (sciencedaily.com). Other risks and issues include a greater number of clotting factors in the blood, which increases the risk of stroke.

In the shorter term, women suffer to a much greater extent, both physically and mentally, and prolonged bouts of inadequate sleep, as Dr. Saurez, one of the authors of the study, puts it, “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.”

Now, more research needs to be done on how our sleep requirements do change over time as we age from childhood all the way through to old age,  but more and more links are being made to good health and good sleep.  Another point of concern in this study was the length of time it took to fall asleep.  “Interestingly, it appears that it’s not so much the overall poor sleep quality that was associated with greater risk, but rather the length of time it takes a person to fall asleep that takes the highest toll,” says Suarez. “Women who reported taking a half an hour or more to fall asleep showed the worst risk profile.”

Your immune system also begins to fail when sleep becomes an issue.  We’ve all felt those effects: all-night weekend benders, which leave us, by the following Monday or Tuesday, just not feeling good.

When we were living in Korea, my light-sleeping partner and I were in a real conundrum. I was sleeping great! I am also allegedly a snorer—well, was back then, and moved more when trying to fall asleep. This proved to be rather disruptive to her patterns.  She pretty much went the whole year in Korea battling chronic colds, being short-tempered, and all and all, just not feeling pleasant.  Now, the scope of this blog post is not to come up with up ten different ways to solve these “sleeping together issues.”  Each couple is different and each couple can find those solutions that work best for them.  But this post is about stressing the point that women do need more sleep than men; it is not about a toughness thing, it is, however, a reality in the general population.  Are there exceptions to this? Of course, but the importance of regular quality sleep cannot be emphasized enough.  So for the lads, sleep is important, too!  Especially if you do strength training and other activities, but you will also have to share in the responsibility of making sure your partner is getting the sleep she needs as well.  You will both be happier if you do!  So, how did we solve our sleeping arrangements?  She wears earplugs, and since I tend to be more of a night-owl than her, I either go to be when she does, or I time it that I don’t come to bed until I know she is out.  This way I don’t disrupt her in that crucial transition phase of nodding off.

I also do not drink as much as I used to, and have lost 20 pounds, which has made a huge difference in reducing my alleged snoring.

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