Insomnia Inequality

Insomnia Inequality

Tired? You're not alone! Turns out 1 in every 4 women suffers from insomnia (while only 1 in 5 men suffers from it). On top of that, men who do suffer from insomnia typically only have one symptom. Women who suffer from insomnia typically suffer from two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Trouble staying asleep.
  • Waking up too early in the morning.

Compared to men, women take longer to fall asleep, sleep for shorter periods once they do fall asleep, and then (not surprisingly) feel more tired when they wake up.

Why Can't Women Sleep?

Hormones are the main culprit when it comes to women's insomnia. Here are the times insomnia and hormones butt heads the most.

  • If you are pregnant. Pregnancy is a rollercoaster of hormones. For some women, it can make them more tired and they sleep more, but for many women, the hormones in the first two trimesters can throw their sleep off schedule. Pregnant women may wake more frequently in the night to relieve their bladder, or they may have restless leg syndrome. Once the hormones start to level out at the third trimester, many women reach a discomfort level that prevents a good night's sleep.
  • If you are PMSing. The days before your period comes, not only are you more likely to cry at that commercial, but you're also possibly facing sleep issues. When premenstrual syndrome (PMS) hits, your progesterone levels can head dive and make sleep a battle.
  • If you are perimenopausal. Perimenopause is when your body begins transitioning to menopause. This can start as early as your late 30s, but it typically starts in a woman's 40s. One of the main characteristics of perimenopause is the ovaries beginning to slow down the production of progesterone and estrogen. Unfortunately, both of these hormones are sleep promoters.
  • If you are menopausal. One of the first signs of menopause is difficulty staying asleep. Over 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes due to the drastic changing of hormones in their bodies, and if it happens at night, this can result in night sweats and an inability to fall back asleep.
  • If you are post-menopausal. You'd think once the hormones leveled out, it would only be fair that women catch a break, right? Turns out that's not the case. After menopause, 10% of women experience inadequate thyroid hormone production, which leads to weight gain. Weight gain, especially combined with the lowered levels of the thyroid hormone, increases your chances of sleep apnea.
  • If you have a health condition. Certain health conditions unique to women (polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS) or more frequently experienced by women (urinary incontinence, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia) can also contribute to poor sleep. In addition to health conditions worsening insomnia, insomnia can also worsen these health conditions.

Is There Any Hope?

It all seems pretty grim if you are a woman and you are struggling with sleep. Luckily there are a few things you can control that can help you catch some Zs.

  • Exercise. Getting recommended amounts of exercise can help in more than one way. Exercise can help your body feel more tired by the end of the day. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid sleep apnea.
  • Increase soy. If hormones are the cause of your sleep problems, increasing soy, which mimics estrogen, may help. Soy-based milk or yogurt alternatives or edamame are good sources of soy.
  • Eat healthily. A low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet can help stave off hot flashes, and the sooner you start eating that way the better.
  • Pillows. If pregnancy is the cause of your sleep disruption, investing in a body pillow that can help cradle your abdomen may be worth it.
  • Melatonin. A melatonin supplement can help signal to your body to wind down at the end of the day and know that it's time for rest.
  • Hormone replacement therapy. Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy if your menopausal symptoms are extreme and interfering with your quality of life.
  • Talk to your doctor. There may be other options your doctor would recommend, including therapy (if your sleep problems are related to depression and anxiety), lifestyle changes, or medication.

While it is unfair that women are affected so much more than men when it comes to sleep problems, take heart that you don't need the extra sleep for beauty rest, because you're looking great, sis.

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