WOMEN AND SLEEP
June 25, 2018

Women report sleep problems that follow their reproductive life.  From the age of menarche through menopause women seem to have more reported problems with insomnia and poor sleep.  More than men, women report more difficulty initiating sleep, staying asleep, and more early morning awakenings.

These gender differences seem to indicate that women are more prone to sleep symptoms and more likely to report them.  The occurrence of insomnia, hypersomnia, and restless leg syndrome are all higher in women.

  Until the late 1990’s, sleep research was conducted primarily on men.  This was due to the problems that hormonal shifts in women complicated study designs and the interpretation of results. What needed to be done was to consider the stages of female reproductive life.

In order to understand the impact that hormonal changes have on women’s sleep, studies now look at three separate phases: 1) sleep in women of reproductive age, including sleep during the menstrual cycle including the premenstrual stage; 2) sleep during pregnancy and postpartum; and 3) sleep during the premenopausal stage and menopause itself, including sleep issues in women of advanced age.

This article is too brief to discuss any or all of these issues.  However, you should know that sleep medicine is becoming more sensitive to the special sleep needs of women in all phases of their lives.  I would encourage all women to discuss their personal sleep issues with their family doctor or a sleep specialist. Help may be available, but only if you ask.

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