Women Keen on Caffeine, Not Sleep

    American women are struggling to maintain a balanced lifestyles and are sacrificing sleep in order to juggle the demands of their careers, families and social lives, according to a recent women’s sleep survey sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation.

    Led by UC San Francisco family health care and nursing professor Kathryn Lee, the 2007 Sleep in America Poll focused specifically on women’s sleeping habits. The study was spurred by a 2005 survey that revealed women were more likely to experience sleeping problems than men.

    The poll surveyed over 1,000 women from across the country and found that 60 percent of women reported getting fewer than two nights of adequate sleep each week, while 40 percent reported having sleep problems every night.

    “”The majority of women surveyed suffer from some type of sleep disorder such as snoring, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy or insomnia,”” Lee said. “”In addition to sleeping disorders, many women are getting an average of less than six hours of sleep each night. Such problems have far-reaching implications that can affect women’s career responsibilities, their moods and even their relationships with friends and family members.””

    Although similar studies have already demonstrated that women are sleep-deprived, the poll was able to provide good insight into women’s sleeping habits and reported some very startling figures, Lee said.

    For example, 80 percent of women said that when they start to feel drowsy during the day, they push themselves to keep going. A staggering 65 percent of women rely on caffeinated beverages, like coffee, every day to keep them alert and 40 percent admit to consuming at least three such beverages throughout the course of the day just to stay awake.

    “”Caffeine might seem like a good idea at first, but in reality, it only provides a short spike in energy before a person crashes,”” said Lisa Tuminello, senior director of communications at the National Sleep Foundation.

    Tuminello and Lee agreed that women’s current lifestyles are to blame for their notorious sleep deprivation and caffeine dependence.

    “”While striving to maintain a balanced lifestyle, sleep is almost always the first thing that a woman gives up,”” Tuminello said. “”Women are constantly trying to fulfill responsibilities in all areas of their lives, including their career goals, childcare, family needs and personal relationships. Sleep isn’t really a priority for them when they have so much else to think about.””

    Unfortunately, the implications of such lack of sleep can affect virtually every part of a woman’s life, resulting in decreased work productivity, drowsy driving and health risks ranging from diabetes to stroke and heart disease, according to Lee. Sleep depravation also has a significant impact on a woman’s mood and can cause women to feel exhausted, stressed, irritable and upset.

    Fortunately, all of these problems can be avoided as long as women make an effort to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night, as recommended by NSF.

    As a professor at UC San Francisco, Lee said she is familiar with the stresses involved with being a working woman and has had difficulty sleeping due to high stress levels. However, she has discovered a few strategies that work well for her.

    “”When I know I’m going to give a stressful lecture or I have a business trip to go on, I usually have difficulty falling asleep,”” Lee said. “”In cases such as these, I know how important it is for my to get a restful sleep the night before, so I might take sleeping pills if I’m having trouble falling asleep on my own.””

    Lee also recommended working in well-lit areas to remain focused, and taking brisk walks instead of consuming massive amounts of caffeine to avoid caffeine crashes.

    The NSF offers many other helpful tips such as creating a “”sleep-friendly”” environment in the bedroom, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine at night in order to get a better night’s sleep.

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