Sleep loss is a growing health issue, especially among women. Women are more likely to have insomnia than men, with numbers doubling in older ages. Furthermore, sleep apnea is more common among women than previously believed. For women, the experience of sleep loss is different, requiring sensitivity to unique feminine factors that may cause and maintain sleep difficulties.
Woman #1: I just have too much going on!
These days a woman’s day can easily consist of a full-time job, caring for three kids, cleaning the house, yoga class, walking the dog, and an extensive to-do list with no end in sight. There are plenty of sleep deprived women who superwomen. Their minds race at night when as they attempt to sleep.
-Don’t ignore the signs of being tired. That yawn, forgetfulness, and/or moodiness, is your body’s way of telling you it needs sleep.
-Improve your sleep hygiene. Don’t expect your body to power down immediately at night. Give yourself a chance to relax by sticking to a soothing bedtime routine, included calming activities such as a warm bath, a cup of SleepyTime tea, or your favorite book. Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy, and stick to a regular sleep and wake time.
-Stay away from your smart phone and tablet 1 hour before bedtime. Electronics not only trick your body into thinking it’s daytime, they can remind you of stress.
Woman #2: My PMS is horrible or I’m pregnant.
Some women say they always have insomnia 1 or 2 weeks before their period starts, when PMS levels can be at their highest. Sleep loss can be related to the fluctuations of female hormones, especially the rapid decrease in estrogen and progesterone before menstruation.
Pregnant women often times experience sleep disturbances due the fluctuations of hormones, which can cause insomnia and extreme fatigue. Then there’s the need to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes and a growing belly, perfect stage for sleep issues.
-Keep a sleep diary. You can create your own or use a sleep diary app to really take a good look at how you are sleeping. Also, as you include factors such as diet and exercise, include tracking your menstrual cycle to make accommodations to improve your sleep.
-Make accommodations. If you know when you will have 5 to 15 days of sleep disturbance per month, possibly even 9 months of it, plan to make some adjustments. It could mean increasing your exercise regimen, adding a relaxation exercise, asking for help from your partner and/or taking an afternoon nap (30 minutes maximum).
Woman #3: I am going through “the change.”
For many women going through menopause or are post-menopausal, insomnia goes hand in hand. This may be due to the hormonal changes, due to uncomfortable night sweats or due to the stress of transitioning into a new phase of life. Some women say their insomnia issues are discounted by doctors, as doctors may assume it is part of “the change” and will go away eventually.
That is not the case. For some women, sleep issues began as work-related, menopause-related, or pregnancy-related, but they become a continuous problem on their own.
-Get help! If you have tried all the sleep tips you can find, and nothing helps, you may need to see a sleep professional. There are some solutions out there that don’t require medication. One that works is a short-term, non-drug, talk therapy treatment for insomnia, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT:I). You can easily find a certified CBT:I provider in your area or online from top sleep researchers. It is completely painless.
-Sleep Apnea Sufferer? Some signs of sleep apnea are snoring, constant tiredness, a dry mouth and morning headaches. Both pregnancy and menopause can increase sleep disordered breathing. Getting your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated is easier these days, due to home sleep studies as well as comfortable CPAP masks and CPAP alternatives.
Whether you are one of these women, or you have your own version of sleep difficulties, the point is, help is available. Prevent the serious consequences of sleep deprivation by trying these tips or talk to a sleep specialist. Take your personal sleep needs into consideration as you tackle sleep problems head on, the same way you succeed in other aspects of your life!
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