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Jan O’Hara, WHNP

Let me introduce you to Jan O’Hara who is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Vickery Family Medicine and is also the owner of Asheville Childbirth Education where she teaches birthing classes. Jan enjoys educating women about the incredible experience of childbirth and the female body.

To celebrate Women’s Health Month, Jan has written a few digestible blog posts about women’s health that I would love to share with you.

– Dr. Gus Vickery, M.D.

As humans, we all need to sleep—there’s just no getting around it. There is much debate over how many hours of sleep we need, but the current consensus is between 7 and 9 hours each and every single night.

With this known fact, why are most women only getting 6 hours of sleep during the workweek?

A National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll revealed that women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Nearly 40 million people suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, in the United States, but research shows sleep problems affect more women than men.

This could be caused by several things, including hormones, environmental factors, and lifestyle habits. But all in all, women are lacking in sleep because we just don’t make it a priority.

I think enough is enough—women need to better understand just how important sleep is to a happy and healthy life.

How Poor Sleep Affects Our Health

Do you feel sluggish throughout your day? Are you telling your coworkers, “I’m just so tired,” all too often? It should be no surprise that by undercutting our recommended hours of sleep, we also undercut our health and make our lives more challenging.

Continued lack of sleep can even contribute to problems like weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.

Not enough sleep can result in daytime sleepiness, increased accidents, problems concentrating, and poor performance on the job. Sleep deprivation can also ruin relationships—conversations with your partner seem impossible, going out no longer feels fun, and keeping your emotions together rarely happens.

Later on, continued lack of sleep can even contribute to problems like weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and heart disease. It’s time to gain the energy to fight back.

Making Sleep a Priority

We have busy schedules, heavy workloads, and just altogether stressful lives. But that doesn’t give us an excuse to disregard healthy sleep.

Below are a few tips for setting up yourself for successful sleep every night.

1. Take the time before bed to relax.

Don’t expect to fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow if you haven’t given your body and your mind the opportunity to wind down. Switch off your devices, dim all the lights, take a warm bath, use soothing essential oils like lavender, and cozy up with a good book. Doing so tells your body it’s time to settle in for the night, making falling
asleep that much easier.

2. Make your bed as comfortable as possible.

If you’re pregnant, finding a comfortable way to fall asleep is a challenge in of itself. Or if you’re going through menopause, having a hot flash in the middle of the night can severely disrupt your sleep cycle.

Combat your discomfort by investing in the right mattress, a C-shaped pillow, or cooler bedding so you can sleep soundly. Keep the bedroom cool and dark and wear a sleep mask if necessary. Also remember that your bedroom should be a place for sleep and intimacy only. Don’t bring in your laptop or phone; the bedroom is not a place to work.

3. Consult with a sleep specialist.

If you’re still having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep—or if you think you may be suffering from a serious sleep disorder—there is no shame in seeking professional help.

Most women aren’t getting the rest they need and the rest they deserve. Sleep is vital; it keeps your head clear, your body healthy, and your life on track. Try to make time in your overcrowded schedule for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each and every night. Your body will thank you.

Jan O’Hara received her BS in Biology and Ecology from Emory University in 1994. She completed her Master’s in the Science of Nursing in 1999 at Vanderbilt University. Jan has worked in a variety of settings including spending one year doing volunteer work in Honduras. Jan and her family have lived in Asheville since 2004. She enjoys trail running, outdoor activities and live music.