Women’s Sleep Problems
Sleep plays a vital role in promoting a woman’s health and well being. Getting the sleep that you need is likely to enhance your overall quality of life. Yet as a woman you face many potential barriers that can disrupt and disturb your sleep. Overcoming these challenges can help you enjoy the daily benefits of feeling alert and well rested.
Most women need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night. In general women tend to sleep more than men, going to bed and falling asleep earlier. A woman’s sleep also tends to be lighter and more easily disturbed. Women are more likely to feel un-refreshed even after a full night of sleep. Women also tend to describe sleep problems using different terms than men. Women may be less likely to say that they feel sleepy during the day. Instead women often describe feeling tired, un-rested or fatigued. These expressions reflect feelings of physical or mental exhaustion. Women also may report an overall lack of energy or vitality.
There are many complex factors that may affect how a woman sleeps. Some of these factors change over time. For example, excessive daytime sleepiness is more common when women are in their 20s and 30s. In contrast older women appear to adapt better to periods of sleep loss. This difference has been attributed to the many commitments that compete for a young woman’s time. In particular working moms must balance the demands of their career, family, friends and personal health needs. Yet a recent study provides encouragement for mothers. It showed that having children does not increase a woman’s risk of daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
Common factors that affect a woman’s sleep include: life events, depression, illness, bad sleep habits, medication use, physical or hormonal changes. Other factors that can affect a woman’s sleep include:
- Sleep Disorders. Millions of women suffer from an ongoing sleep disorder. These problems often remain undiagnosed.
- Insomnia. It tends to be more common in women than in men. In older women it often is caused by other medical problems.
- Sleep Apnea. Women with Sleep Apnea are less likely than men to report having pauses in breathing or loud snoring. Instead they are more likely to have a history of depression or a problem with insomnia.
- Snoring. Habitual snoring occurs in about a quarter of adult women. Loud and frequent snoring is a warning sign for Sleep Apnea.
- Restless legs syndrome. This may occur up to twice as often in women as in men. It can cause severe sleep disruption.
- Sleep related eating disorder consists of repeated episodes of compulsive binge eating and drinking after waking up in the night. It tends to occur when you are only partially awake. The majority of people with a sleep related eating disorder are women.
- Leg cramps are common in women.
- Nightmares. Women report nightmares more often than men and discuss them more openly.
- Medical Problems. Some of the most common medical problems that affect the sleep of women: acid reflux, arthritis, asthma, back pain, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease
- Pregnancy. All of the drastic changes, physical, hormonal and emotional, during and after pregnancy can affect a woman’s sleep.
- Menopause. Insomnia, sleep apnea and fibromyalgia are more common in postmenopausal women. Restless leg syndrome and sleep related leg cramps are more common as women age.
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