That sleepless night that makes you grouchy and tired the next day can be a killer — literally. New research shows that getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In a study of 4,600 men and women aged 35 to 55, researchers at University College London and the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom found that women who slept less than 8 hours per night had a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men. Differences in hormone levels may play a role.
According to data recently published in the journal Sleep, women who slept less than 5 hours per night had significantly higher levels of the inflammatory markers that are indicators for heart disease. Compared to women who were able to achieve a full 8 hours of sleep, risk levels increased dramatically with every hour of sleep lost. Even women who received 7 hours of sleep a night showed much higher levels of risk indicators than those who slept 8 hours.
A growing body of research indicates that sleep is a vital component to good physical and mental health. Chronic insomnia is also known to increase anxiety and contribute to depression, particularly in women. Another study reported in Sleep indicates a relationship between postpartum depression and the lack of sleep common to new mothers. In the Norwegian study, 60% of new mothers reported sleep problems with 16.5% showing symptoms of depression.
Researchers found that postpartum depression not only aggravated insomnia, but that complaints about sleep problems often interfered with the diagnosis of postpartum depression. Researchers found that many women who continued to report sleep problems two months after delivery were suffering from postpartum depression. However, because tiredness and lack of sleep are common complaints of new mothers, those suffering from postpartum depression often remained undiagnosed and untreated.
Researchers emphasized the importance of doctors discussing sleep problems with new mothers. Chronic lack of sleep that affects daytime functioning, results in a general lack of energy or that impacts other aspects of a new mother’s life could indicate postpartum depression. Depression screening is recommended to new mothers who continue to experience chronic insomnia. Treatment by a board certified psychiatrist can help women overcome postpartum depression, find solutions to chronic sleep problems, and enjoy their roles as new mothers.