Sleeplessness in women is characterized by difficulty in having quality, timely and deep sleep. This condition otherwise called insomnia can negatively affect the state of your physical, emotional and mental health (see sleep disorder).
A good sleeping pattern improve concentration and memory development, it refreshes the immune system and helps repair cell damage, which helps to prevent diseases.
Sleeplessness is a national problem that requires everyone’s attention, it afflicts over 70 million Americans costing billions in healthcare. The American Psychiatric Association estimated that 10-20 percent of people complain of significant sleep problems while other statistics also show that more women suffer insomnia than men.
It is now a known fact that younger women generally have better sleep compared to older women whose sleeping pattern come under pressure due to some critical factors discussed below.
Six key causes of Sleeplessness in Women
The various root causes of sleeplessness are evolving and still on the count, however, it is more certain that every woman will experience insomnia at one stage of their life or the other.
This blog will only discuss a selected few among the many causes of sleeplessness in women.
1) Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders represent the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.
According to the Anxiety and Depression association of America (AADA), women account for almost twice of the diagnosed cases of anxiety disorder when compared to men in their lifetime. In the past year, prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).
An anxiety that is not addressed over a period can degenerate to depression, this observation most time is due to our social structure that places more burden on women, particularly in cases of divorce and child custody.
An example is a single working mom with kids, she has a lot to chew from worries about her kids, her office and her future; getting to bed early or resting well may not be an easy norm for such a mom.
The growth cycle of a woman’s life, starting from adolescence through old age comes with hormonal shifts that impinge on a woman’s sleeping pattern. The observed hormonal changes and imbalances reverberate through monthly menstrual shifts, pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopausal stages.
These hormonal changes are temporary just as the stages are in phases, women should, therefore, embrace proper sleep hygiene to overcome sleeplessness or insomnia that may occur.
- Menstruation (Menstrual Insomnia)
There are two hormones that come into play during this period, one is estrogen that keeps you alert and progesterone that makes you sleepy. As the levels of estrogen decrease during menstruation, the progesterone induces sleepiness. The ovulation period is also characterized by rising progesterone which also make you feel sleepy.
Hence, the menstrual period is characterized by very low hormone levels and many women during their periods complain of sleepiness. Some women are hit most by insomnia during the pre-menstrual periods while others have the same challenges within the menstrual period.
- During Pregnancy
- Post-pregnancy Sleeplessness after the birth of a baby
Sleeplessness or Insomnia during pregnancy is not a strange development, however, it becomes more noticeable during the second and third trimesters as more pregnancy symptoms manifest and the belly of the expectant mom becomes protruding which make settling down in bed uncomfortable.
Do not panic and make effort to reduce your worry level in order not to worsen the situation when it occurs, it is a fact that sleeplessness often occurs during pregnancy.
The sleeplessness is due to hormone imbalances i.e. changes in the level of progesterone as the baby grows or it may be due to a historical extension of your sleeplessness if you have had it before.
Your sleeplessness may also escalate due to the growing baby pushing heavily on your uterus, thereby crystallizing more bathroom trips, heart burns due to reduced digestion, leg cramps, intensifying internal activity leading to elevated body temperature, the positioning of the baby and some unfathomable fears.
Nursing mothers are very sensitive to the wriggling, crying or any kind of noise or posture by their baby.
These readily cause them to wake-up culminating into a longer period of sleeplessness. Thus, younger women or women that have since wean their children often have better sleep than women who have infants with them.
Menopause marks an important transition in reproductive states in women and is defined by termination of menses and problems in maintaining sleep. It starts around the ages of 40 to 55 and it is characterized by hot flashes (HFs).
According to Bakers FC et al., HF is a sensation of heat, sweating, flashing, anxiety, and chills lasting between 3 and 10 min and is primarily a thermoregulatory phenomenon with characteristics of a heat dissipation response which often ease after a woman reaches post-menopause.
These changes are due to an oscillating hormonal effect of estrogen and progesterone levels in the body which actually wake the brain during sleep.
- Sleep disturbances remain a major complaint of women transitioning from menopause to post-menopause stage. Though the oscillation or surging of the hormones stops, sleeplessness may still persist. At this stage, a woman may have low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) leading to an increase in weight and elevated risk of Sleep Apnea or snoring due to a disrupted breathing pathway.
In order to moderate sleeplessness or insomnia in women, it is important that you sleep relaxed, in a comfortable and well-ventilated room devoid of distractions such as noise, spiking bright light, elevated temperature, sudden phone ring and repetitive alarm noise.
It is important to adjust your lifestyle and embrace a positive lifestyle strategy particularly for those that are into alcoholism, smoking, caffeine and other high toxin products. You can suspend these during this period and possibly stop it.
In as much that you did not have a problem with insomnia before pregnancy and menopause, there is the likely possibility that after menopause, your sleep pattern will be restored to a very high degree of the pre-menopause period. Aging will definitely affect your sleeping behavior.
Further to the precautions stated above to moderate the impact of insomnia, you can also ensure that you clear your persistent worries and talk it out with your friends/partner before bedtime. Take dinner early to prevent constipation and heart burns on a bumpy tummy if you are pregnant.
Late intake of liquid can increase your bathroom runs in the night so take sufficient liquid early in the evening.
A bedtime schedule will also condition your body to a steady sleep timeline.
Also, power off all your electronic gadgets like phone, I-pad, e-reader, TV, speakers, laptop or other electronic devices before bed. The glittering light from these devices can increase alertness and distract smooth sleep.
Medical practitioners have also established that light from screens can impinge the activity of body melatonin, the hormone that regulates your internal clock and sleep cycle.