How Important is Sleep for Women’s Health?

By Agatha Singer | Published 1/23/2019 0

Young Asian woman sleeping 1500 x 1000

Photo source: Adobe Stock Photos

It’s an established fact that sleep has a profound effect on our health. In particular, some recent studies indicate that sleep issues and even schedules have some unique effects on women’s health.

Despite extensive studies, scientists have yet to fully understand the implications of sleep disorders, but each new piece of research contributes to the development of knowledge which can help with the management and prevention of some diseases on a global scale.

Early Risers Have a Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

According to a recent study by the National Cancer Research Institute, women who are early risers have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The so-called ‘larks’ function better during the first half of the day and have an astounding 40% lower risk of developing this particular disease.

Moreover, the study indicated that every additional hour of sleep beyond the 6-8 hours of recommended daily rest increases that same risk by 20%. While Dr. Rebecca Richmond, a member of the team behind the study, states that the matter requires further investigation, she does highlight that these results are consistent with previous research. This means that changing our sleeping habits can be an important step in the prevention of cancer, which claims over 500,000 lives every year.

This study analyzed the data of 228,951 women from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium and 180,215 women from the UK Biobank project. The team used the Mendelian randomization method during this research.

Based upon the acquired data, and previous studies of night-shift work and exposure to light at night, the team of researchers concluded that changing our sleep habits and thus adapting the entire circadian rhythm to that of a ‘lark’ can have protective qualities against breast cancer. The scientists do stress that the risk factors for the condition are far more complex and as such, this change does not offer guaranteed protection. However, the data speaks for itself and clearly shows that this is a factor important enough to make the effort of changing worthwhile.

Poor Sleep Quality Speeds Up Aging in Pre-Menopausal Women

The expression ‘beauty sleep’ is rather apt as there is no doubt that maintaining a regular sleep schedule is one of the best of enhancing your natural beauty. It acts in a similar way to a clean diet, which is another such method. This means that getting a healthy rest optimizes your body function, thereby making your look fresh and naturally attractive.

However, research indicates that the impact of sleep goes deeper than this. A study conducted by University Hospitals Case Medical Center, commissioned by Estee Lauder showed that sleep quality directly affects skin structure.

Over the course of the study, sixty pre-menopausal women aged 30-49 were separated into two groups. The group with poor sleep quality ranked 4.4 on the SCINEXA skin aging scoring system. Meanwhile, the group which maintained a healthy sleep schedule during the study received a 2.2 score. This translates into significant differences in the tangible signs of aging, such as loss of skin tone and wrinkles.

It should be noted that researchers believe the main reason behind the differential was greater UV damage. According to the study, poor sleep quality reduces your ability to recover from UV radiation and similar events. Overall, this particular problem results in a diminution of the skin’s main function, which is to be a natural barrier.

Women Who Snore Have a Greater Risk of Heart Disease

At the end of November, the Radiological Society of North America published a study provided some data which some may consider worrying. According to this information, women suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) develop cardiac issues earlier than men who suffer from the same condition.

What is even more worrying is that OSA often goes undiagnosed for long periods of time. For women, this means that they have a much greater risk of developing a cardiac function impairment which directly translates into an increased risk of mortality.

Snoring is the most common sign of OSA, but it is not a completely accurate indicator of the condition. Other symptoms include morning irritability, fatigue, dry mouth, and headache.

This study processed the data of 4,877 people registered with the UK Biobank project. There were three groups of participants: those with diagnosed OSA (118), those without any reported sleep issues (2,477), and those with self-reported snoring (1,886). Both men and women in the OSA group had cardiac issues.

However, it was the self-reported OSA group which revealed the most important data. In this group, the discrepancy between men and women showed more markedly. It was clear that women develop the cardiac impairment associated with OSA earlier in the disease than do men. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment should take precedence.

This study also showed that an extremely large number of OSA cases remain undiagnosed. This means that many of the people at risk are unaware that they need to protect their heart health.

Researchers recommend getting a sleep analysis or at least asking partner’s to observe sleep patterns in order to catch the moment when snoring transforms into OSA. This exact transition happens when a snoring person stops breathing for a short period of time and gasps afterward.  It is this particular breathing pattern of disruption which affects the cardiac function.

Sleep Loss Causes DNA Changes Which Increase Weight Gain

A team of researchers from Uppsala University determined that acute sleep loss leads to epigenetic changes in DNA methylation. This study offers solid proof that sleep deprivation triggers tissue-specific changes, which affect adipose tissue in particular.

These changes affect ‘metabolic memory’, which means that their impact is long term. They are more pronounced in people with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes. According to the data collected during this research, chronic disruption of sleep greatly increases the risk of obesity.

This study, like a lot of other sleep research, had a specific focus on shift workers. This additional piece of proof serves to reinforce the idea of how unhealthy shift work is for everyone. Both men and women are susceptible to the health issues caused by the disruption of a healthy circadian rhythm. This latest study clearly shows that sleep loss can cause tissue inflammation, which in turn has a major adverse effect on health as a whole.

Most worrying of all is that these DNA changes occurred even over the rather time short period of the study. This indicates that even seemingly minor sleep disruptions can have a long-term impact. It is therefore essential to take maintaining a healthy sleep schedule very seriously.

Related:  Click here to see all of our stories about sleep

Importance of Healthy Sleep Patterns for Women’s Health: Final Thoughts

The knowledge that getting regular healthy sleep is important for health is not new. But current research sheds some light on how women can protect their health by changing specific sleeping habits. These changes do not come easily, but their impact upon the body is significant.

Whilst it is acknowledged that an occasional break in the schedule will not have a major detrimental effect, every additional night of lost sleep or hour of prolonged sleep increases the damage.

It is important to be aware that these issues do not need to be regular in order to contribute to major health issues. Even short-term exposure can result in permanent damage. Therefore, If you want to maintain not only your beauty but your health as well, you should make an effort to keep your sleep schedule as regular and as healthy as possible.

Agatha Singer


Agatha Singer, a work-from-home mom of two little nuggets. My interests range from the latest business management trends to healthy living and adventurous traveling. I always stay open to new ideas and expertise to make my writings handy and captivating for you. I'll be happy to see you on my blog: Agatha Singer

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