What makes a good night’s rest so beneficial?
Although family, work, and life changes are so demanding on time, making sleep a priority is an act of self-preservation. Not only is sleep extremely influential as it enhances both psychological and physiological well-being, but it also translates to how the human body responds and reacts to different processes. Our body’s nervous, metabolic, and brain systems are all interconnected and more dependent on rest and recovery than we may think! As human beings, we are dependent on the “food for the brain” that sleep provides. 1
Although what makes a good night’s sleep is subjective, sleep quality throughout adolescence is especially vital for growth and development. Sleep research finds that a good night’s sleep is defined as 7-9 hours for the average adult. However, experts recommend different hours of sleep for children based on their age: children between the ages of 6-12 years old should sleep between 9 to 12 hours per day, whereas adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years old should sleep between 8 to 12 hours per day. 2
Youth and adolescence are critical growth phases of life in which rest, both physical and mental, should be a priority. Sleep is essential in supporting overall well-being, disease prevention, development, and healthy brain function throughout one’s lifespan. Sleep duration and quality strongly influence mental health, ranging from moods throughout the day as well as our thoughts and actions. Sleep quality, however, holds more of an effect on health outcomes than the quantity of sleep. 3
Inadequate sleep quality and duration have been shown to negatively affect cognition and academic performance in students, becoming a barrier for the youth to function at their best. Poor sleep quality equates to poor psychological well-being in almost half of the secondary school students in Uganda 3. In younger populations, loss of sleep is seen to significantly hinder socioemotional and physical function in academic settings, therefore adding to symptoms of poor health. Decreased levels of sleep and sleep quality could potentially lead to a decrease in total lifespan as well as measures of health, emotion, and life satisfaction.
Sleep and Menstrual Health.
Circadian rhythms (one’s internal 24-hour pattern) and the menstrual cycle are linked at different phases of a woman’s menstrual flow. Your circadian rhythm is responsible for coordinating sleep, alertness, and bodily functions, keeping you in tune with daylight and darkness through light.4 This connection is also represented by the small, yet significant differences in sleep quality between menstrual cycle phases as reported by women, although sleep quality varies by person. 5 Because sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies, a woman’s reproductive cycle is strongly affected by sleep patterns… and vice versa!
Throughout development, sleep becomes more vital than ever as the body’s hormones begin to change in response to sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Consistent sleep loss is linked to adversities in menstrual function, including heavy bleeding. Shorter sleep time also has a causal association with heavier bleeding and greater cycle irregularities when compared with normal sleep. 6 This can compromise the body and lead to adverse health outcomes throughout various systems, which can in turn aggravate menstrual health.
Menstrual cycle irregularity, if not properly cared for, holds heavy implications for general health and fertility. Conditions such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to develop from pelvic inflammation and heavy menstrual bleeding 5. Because mood disturbances are associated with menstrual cycles and altered states of sleep, many women become subject to menstrual-related sleep disorders. The heightened effects of menstruation as a result of sleep disturbances can become debilitating for many young girls and women.
This highlights the importance of regulated sleep patterns as it holds a heavy effect on menstrual health outcomes. Recognizing that sleep patterns do change over the course of development and lifespan The purpose of this article stems from a community need to inform a sample of youth on the relationship between sleep duration & quality and menstrual regularity, symptoms, and outcomes. Sleep and overall health are heavily linked for all ages and genders; however, we focus on young girls and women with the goal of improving sleep, menstrual health outcomes and holistic well-being.
It is important to recognize that sleep patterns do change over the course of development and lifespan. In Uganda, a decent night’s sleep is not a given. Factors such as low socioeconomic status and varying levels of stress power through, thus affecting one’s mental health and hindering overall well-being. Some barriers to healthy sleep regulation include lifestyles and living environments. For instance, women who are shift workers may live in a consistent state of sleep restriction. 7 Differences in levels of sleep among communities handling alternate burdens of disease and living conditions could account for a part of health disparities. Because sleep plays such a role in overall health, associations between socioeconomic status and increased rates of disease may be explained by shorter sleep duration and poor quality of sleep.
We can develop the sleep patterns of those around us from infancy, meaning that the lifestyles of those in our immediate environment translate to our own. Sleep researchers investigating presleep worries and sleep environment find that psychological factors are linked with socioeconomic burdens, which affect not only a child’s sleep patterns but in turn their family as well.8 Understanding the factors affecting sleep patterns in different families is necessary to help community leaders cater to children and families heavily influenced by the variables in their day-to-day life.
Sleep is a critical service to yourself! Not only for the brain but in terms of sexual and reproductive health, a healthy sleep schedule is so essential to preserving the menstrual health of our women. Because women experience differences in sociocultural norms, hormone expressions, and labour and lifestyle, young girls and women are more prone to becoming susceptible to sleep disruption.
“Sleep hygiene” is just as important as any other self-care process. It’s a way of making healthier choices throughout your day and night that will impact the way you fall asleep and stay asleep. Establishing healthy sleep hygiene and promoting an improved circadian rhythm can be very simple! Young girls and women can:
-Set a bedtime that will make it easy to sleep at least 7-8 hours a night.
-Go to bed at the same time daily, even on the weekends. Consistency is key!
-Reduce screen time by at least 30 minutes before bed.
-Removing electronics from the bedroom can increase melatonin production! This includes smartphones, TVs, and computers.
-A relaxing nighttime routine can help encourage good sleeping habits!
-Stress is a normal part of life, and it is important to unwind and release as an act of self-care. Reading a book, having a cup of tea, or stretching are all soothing activities to keep off electronics for quality sleep.
-Stay active! Increasing physical activity throughout can boost your energy levels and help you fall asleep more easily at night.
-Avoid having caffeine or a heavy meal before bedtime.
-Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable.
-Get some light in the morning!
Bright, natural light as you wake up is so important in regulating your circadian rhythms and supports your bodily cycles!
Making small, yet impactful changes towards healthier sleep behaviours can support young women and girls’ circadian rhythm and maintain better energy levels. We encourage all communities to continue educating themselves and others about the vitality of sleep on their bodies as we take steps towards a better-represented, healthier lifestyle for our women.