Author: Susan Rinkunas, Science of Us
Published: January 4, 2016
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests insomnia is more common in women than men. Experts believe that hormones, period, pregnancy, children, menopause, stress, anxiety and depression, partners, and poor sleep hygiene are a few of the reasons this sad truth exists.
Women have different levels of estrogen and progesterone than men and they fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Estrogen works on several neurotransmitter pathways that may affect sleep. Likewise, progesterone can have a hypnotic property. These views came from Diane Augelli, M.D., a sleep expert at the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian. She adds that fluxes in these hormones may affect the body clock. They even drive menstrual side effects. Bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, and mood and anxiety can make it harder for a woman to sleep. Pregnant women, aside from the increased need to pee, often find their sleep suffering due to OSA* and RLS* caused by hormonal changes and low iron count.
Children can be a cause of sleep deprivation, too, says Michelle Drerup, Psy.D, a sleep psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. From baby bump until children became toddlers, Drerup says many parents tell her that even after they sleep, they continue to wake up because of their “mommy ears”.
Aside from night sweats and hot flashes, Dr. Augelli says that prevalence of OSA increases and catches up to men as women approach menopause. Stress, anxiety, and depression, likewise, can interfere and affect more women than men regardless of age. Dr. Augelli points out that mental health issues are a chicken-or-the-egg situation, but such a link exists. Thus, if a person thinks she has depression or anxiety, she should get treatment.
Partners and poor sleep hygiene can be the reason, too, for your sleepless nights. Experts suggest sleeping in a different room for a week as a test. If sleep quality increases, partners should talk of seeking treatment or consider making the room change permanent. They can try basic sleep-hygiene advice. These include going to bed at the same schedule, keeping the room dark and cool, not using your device before sleeping, and exercising but not too near bedtime.
Overall, this health report is useful but lacking in terms of treatment and evidence. It would be best if the author cited more sources that suggest whether the reasons for sleepless nights are alarming and might lead to insomnia. She used medical terms as well without their meanings, making it hard for ordinary people to grasp.
Circadian Rhythm – is a daily rhythmic activity cycle, based on 24-hour intervals, exhibited by many organisms. (www.dictionary.com)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – a condition where your breath can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing—briefly—while you sleep. It can happen many times a night to some people. (www.webmd.com)
Restless-Leg Syndrome (RLS) – is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder. (webmd.com)
Snowball Effect – is a situation in which something increases in size or importance at a faster and faster rate (http://dictionary.cambridge.org)
Hypervigilance – is the condition of maintaining an abnormal awareness of environmental stimuli. (merriam-webster.com)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is a talking therapy that can help manage problems by changing the way you think and behave. (nhs.uk)
Comorbid Insomnia – is a sleep disorder that occurs with another condition. Psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression are known to be associated with changes in sleep. (https://sleepfoundation.org)