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Beauty sleep: Healthy, good looking women get it

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Ladies, we know you are busy.

But you need to get more sleep — for good health, to look good, for optimal multitasking.

In fact, science suggests that women actually need more sleep than men do. Without restful sleep, women are more prone to waking up downbeat or mad, recent studies show. And sleepy women have an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes compared with sleep-deprived men.

“These associations tended to be much more strongly observed in women than in men,” said Dr. Edward Suarez, a Duke University sleep specialist whose study showed that women are more likely to display worsening mood, anger or hostility after inadequate sleep than men.

“Sleep is a critical part of your health whether you’re a man or woman, but it seems to be critically important for women,” Suarez said.

Let’s face it, beauty sleep is crucial.

Turning to sleep aids

An estimated 50 million to 70 million Americans can’t sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 8.6 million Americans use prescription sleep aids, according to a survey released in August 2013. Women and people older than 50 are most likely to use prescription sleep aids. The study found more Americans struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep than ever before.

Women are the primary patients of sleep clinics, researchers have said. They’re susceptible to debilitating sleep deprivation as new mothers. And to nerve-racking insomnia as they go through menopause. Post-menopause, women are at greater risk for sleep apnea, the disorder in which sleepers unknowingly choke for air.

Women who have children at home tend to have more sleep issues than women with no children in the household, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Leslie Swanson, a University of Michigan Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic psychologist and specialist in postpartum mental health, helps new mothers learn tricks and habits to deal with the trying schedules of newborns. She specializes in promoting sleep in new mothers without using prescription or over-the-counter medication.

By following structured sleep tips, a UM study found new mothers could improve their sleep without medication. It was a small study but with big results that are applicable to all who struggle with sleep.

Swanson’s study concentrated on a dozen women with babies less than a year old, who were suffering from insomnia and depression. After five sessions of therapy and instruction on sleeping habits, two-thirds of the women showed significant improvement in depression symptoms, said Swanson.

“Even though they have a baby at home, they can see improvements in their sleep — and their moods get better — after five weeks of treatment,” she said.

About 82 percent of the women said their insomnia had eased, and the amount of time they spent awake in the middle of the night went from 125 minutes to 49 minutes.

Swanson and her staff challenge the women to change their behaviors and beliefs.

They ask the women to limit napping and to avoid excessive time in bed tossing and turning. For individuals with insomnia, even the act of going to bed can stimulate hyperarousal and worry about whether sleep will occur, said Swanson.

When it comes to sleep, for many with insomnia, she said, “the bed is a place for anxiety and frustration and worry.”

When you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something else in a quiet, dim room and don’t return to bed until you are sleepy, urges Swanson. Recommended activities -- reading, knitting, folding laundry, even watching TV in a dark room. But don’t turn on all the lights and start re-organizing the catch-all closet.

Among treatment techniques are relaxation training -- instruction on breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.

Swanson, 34, said she sleeps very well. “My husband calls me a vampire when I start dimming the lights an hour and a half before bed,” she said. The dim lighting signals the body’s ancient time clock that it’s time to sleep.

Menopause issues

In their middle-age years, women’s hormones ride the roller coaster of menopause. That’s when women become more susceptible to sleep apnea, when one essentially stops breathing. Risk factors for sleep apnea are hypertension and obesity, but doctors say other women also develop it.

That’s what happened to Nesa Muthleb, 64, of Bloomfield Township, Mich. At her high school son’s urging after he saw a TV show, the preschool teacher talked to her doctor about whether she might have sleep apnea because she was feeling sluggish and worn. Diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2006, she wore a Darth Vader-like breathing mask, known as a CPAP, with tubing attached to a nightstand console for two years, until she started unconsciously ripping it off in the middle of the night.

A few years ago, she found herself gaining weight she had lost, dead-tired by workday’s end and foggy after she woke up in the morning.

“What do I need to have a productive time in my later 60s,” she asked herself. To control what she could, Muthleb decided she needed to deal with her sleep apnea. Rediagnosed at Henry Ford Hospital, she’s now using a less cumbersome, less comical-looking machine.

“It’s amazing. I have a much smaller machine, and it’s much more user-friendly,” said Muthleb. “The air flow is calibrated, and there isn’t a big blast. There’s very little on my face.

“With the other mask I had to sleep on my back and couldn’t turn to either side. Now, whatever position I’m in, I can deal with it. That makes a huge difference.”

“I have more energy ... and I don’t have that deep, tired look. I think, all over, you feel better about yourself.”

Better for beauty

Science has measured that “deep, tired look” of the sleep-disturbed.

University of Michigan patients treated for sleep apnea saw scientifically-measured improvements in their facial skin — less redness and forehead puffiness — in a study released last year by University of Michigan sleep specialist Dr. Ronald Chervin.

In addition, observers who viewed photos of sleep apnea patients, consistently cited the after-treatment images as being more attractive, youthful and alert.

While treating sleep apnea has profound implications for overall health — untreated sleep apnea is associated with heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, weight gain -- Chervin said he now can additionally tout that treatment can improve appearance. His study might motivate more patients to wear the mask, which only about 50(PERCENT) do on a regular basis.

Even with all the evidence about how sleep apnea can harm the heart and other vital functions, some people resist the treatment.

“How do you get people to pay attention and use it?” Chervin asked. “Now we’re starting to use the argument — you’ll look younger, more attractive and more alert to people who see you.”

Nora Kryza, 56, a credit card account manager from Fenton, participated in the UM study. She didn’t quite believe her husband when he told her that she snored — snored loud enough to wake him up. She didn’t hear it, wasn’t bothered by it and slept right away and right through it — or so she thought.

But when her sister-in-law was diagnosed with sleep apnea, Kryza got curious about the symptoms. She talked to her primary doctor about it, and when she told him about the snoring, the doctor referred her to the University of Michigan sleep clinic.

It was a two-part study. On the first night, she was observed and monitored with sensors attached to her head, her heart, her torso. They tested muscle twitching, rapid eye movement, brain waves and heartbeats and determined she had obstructive sleep apnea. She spent another night at the clinic being fitted properly for the CPAP mask.

Although Kryza participated in the UM study about how sleep apnea affects appearance, she said she was more concerned about the condition’s long-term impact on health.

“For me, it’s not hard. I’m really motivated. For some people, if you’re vain, wearing the mask at night makes you feel less than beautiful,” said Kryza. “But it makes you look better in the daytime.”



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