Insomnia in women is a growing problem in the United States. If you’re a woman who’s been tossing and turning like it’s an Olympic sport, you’re one in a nation of insomniacs. Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder in the U.S., reached 9.4 million diagnoses in 2015, up from 800,000 just over two decades earlier, reports the American Journal of Managed Care. One-quarter of women in the U.S. experience symptoms of insomnia, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia is diagnosed when you have difficulty drifting off to sleep or staying asleep, causing you to function poorly the next day. If it takes place three or more times weekly and lasts longer than three months, it’s considered chronic. Sometimes, insomnia is caused by another sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, or another health condition (physical or mental) or medications you are taking. Insomnia can also contribute to or worsen other health conditions, including cardiovascular issues and behavioral health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Why Is Insomnia Common in Women?
Several studies have found insomnia to be more prevalent in women than men, and more common in older women than younger women. Reasons for this seem to be partially related to rising and falling levels of reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. Women report insomnia due to the following health concerns:
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Late-stage pregnancy, when the fetus is pressing on internal organs such as the bladder
- Perimenopause and menopause, when hot flashes and night sweats may cause poor sleep with multiple disruptions in a single night
In addition, women bear a disproportionate responsibility for caring for children in their households, according to a Pew Research Center survey, with moms contributing an average of 14 hours per week to childcare and dads contributing an average of 8 hours per week. For new moms, some of those hours include nighttime feedings that disrupt sleep.
How Can Women Overcome Insomnia?
Getting a better night’s sleep often starts with proper sleep hygiene:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as these chemicals can interfere with sleeping.
- Avoid eating close to bedtime.
- Avoid lying awake in bed for more than 20 minutes.
- Don’t use devices or computers, watch TV, or read while in bed. Avoid looking at screens before going to bed.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on days when you’re not working.
- If you nap, do it early in the day.
- Try listening to a sound you consider soothing — for instance, if the sound of rain on a tin roof or a crackling fire makes you sleepy, play a soundtrack of it while you drift off to sleep. Many such nature sounds are available with paid and free online audio subscriptions.
- If your efforts don’t alleviate your insomnia, seek help from a sleep specialist.
Having a hard time falling or staying asleep? The St. Elizabeth Healthcare Sleep Disorders Centers can help. Find a sleep specialist at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.