The bedroom has become a midlife battleground in the search for sleep, and women are losing out. Here’s how to take back your bedroom and get a good night’s rest.
New research from OTO has shown a stress gap between the sexes when it comes to sleep: Almost 90 per cent of women in the UK feel everyday stresses are negatively affecting their sleep. When your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, it disrupts your ability to drop off. Excess cortisol can also jerk us awake in those early morning witching hours – many midlife women will be familiar with lying awake and worrying at 3am. Not enough shut-eye negatively affects our entire life, from mood and work to relationships, including our ability to be intimate with partners.
The Stress/Sleep Gap
YouGov statistics show that 61 per cent of women say they're tired when they wake up compared to 49 per cent of men. 50 per cent of women are shattered but can't sleep versus 38 per cent of men. So why the sleep gap between the sexes? There are a number of reasons for women being more adversely affected. First of all, our boundaries are down. As a hangover from enforced working from home, too many women are still working in the bedroom. OTO’s research shows that a third of us are sending emails from our beds. In no world is that relaxing. In addition, age is against us. “Women are generally worse sleepers than men,” says James Wilson, AKA the Sleep Geek. “But by midlife, women especially are juggling a lot.”
Womens Heavier Load
Women still shoulder the majority of domestic duties. Women are more likely to do most of the physical housework (in different sex relationships), and more likely to be sandwich carers, looking after kids and elderly relatives. Our days are squeezed and our work is running over into relaxation time.
Neither does our biology help. “Core body temperature needs to drop by one degree in order to sleep,” says James. “Hormonal fluctuations can raise body temperature and disrupt women's sleep throughout their lives, and especially in perimenopause and menopause.” We're certainly aware of the problem, especially when it comes to relationships. OTO’s research shows that 58 per cent of women say that stress affects their ability to be intimate with a partner. This is completely counterproductive: It’s well documented that sex reduces cortisol and releases feel-good hormones that help relax.
How to close the stress gap
A few lifestyle tweaks will help you reclaim your bedroom as a place of relaxation rather than restlessness.
“The hour before bed is crucial for dropping the heart rate, the core temperature and those cortisol levels,” says James. “That's when to make small changes to your normal routine.” Ideally, move your workspace out of the bedroom, otherwise you can't associate the room with relaxation. If this isn't possible, stop working at least an hour before bed and move any paraphernalia. “Create rituals for yourself around the bedroom,” says James. “Have a bath, read a book or have a hot drink. Taking OTO CBD oil is a good cue for your body to chill out and head towards lights out.”CBD oil doesn't send you to sleep but rather targets the endocannabinoid system, which helps break down cortisol. “It keeps maintain equilibrium in the body and the nervous system,” explains James.
Surprisingly, James isn't against devices in bed, but he recommends watching or listening to something relaxing. Or you might try a calming app - perhaps one that incorporates mindfulness and meditation - which are known to relax the mind. Another tip from him is to take control - compassionately. A partner who watches telly in bed when you're trying to drop off is a sleep dictator, he says. “Talk to them about it - honestly but kindly,” says James. Additionally, make sure that curtains are closed, lights are dimmed and the temperature is cool - this is said to help with melatonin production and improve sleep quality. Once you've dropped off, there are solutions to disrupted sleep. If someone nicks the duvet, sleep with one duvet each. “If your partner snores, consider separate rooms,” says James. “Some people simply aren't sleep compatible.”
Finally, don't panic if you wake up at 2am. Calm down and get up for a while. “Try listening to a book that you've already read,” advises James. “And - easier said than done - don't worry about being tired the next day. You'll get through.”