Sleep and Women

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I. How Is A Woman's Sleep Unique?

How well a woman sleeps has a great effect on the quality of her life. Everyone needs to make sure that they get enough sleep. This is especially true for women today. It is not easy to balance the demands of home, work, family and friends. It is even harder when a woman doesn't get the sleep that her body needs. As your sleep improves, you will find that you can think, work, and interact with others better. You will also feel healthier and be able to enjoy life more than ever before.

Woman in bed stretching

Recent studies have paid a lot more attention to women and how they sleep. Studies have looked closely at women's sleep patterns, needs, and special problems. Just as women's bodies are unique, so is their need for sleep. Research shows that women are twice as likely as men to have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Studies also show that how women sleep changes over time. In general, women get their best sleep when they are young adults. As women age, changes in their bodies and hormones affect the quality of their sleep. Older women get less deep sleep. They are also more likely to wake up at night. Physical factors can also disturb their sleep. This includes arthritis, breathing problems, and hot flashes.

A woman's feelings also have a strong effect on how she sleeps. Stress, depression, fear, and other strong emotions can greatly reduce the quality of her sleep.

There are many challenges that women must face in order to get the quality of sleep that they want and need. With the proper guidance and attention, these challenges can be overcome. Women can have the kind of sleep that dreams are made of!

II. How Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Women's Sleep?

The menstrual cycle can cause a woman great discomfort. This can change the way that she sleeps. It is common to wake up many more times during the premenstrual period. You may also find that you dream more often and more clearly. Other women report that they can feel worn out and sleepy during the day. This may cause them to sleep more throughout this time.

A woman feels many changes in her body during the premenstrual period. These can include the following:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Irritability
  • Food cravings
  • Emotional changes

These symptoms can have a strong effect upon a woman's sleep. Normally, these sleep problems go away a few days after the start of menstruation. Some women may feel more tense and grouchy. As a result, they may face ongoing sleep problems such as insomnia.

You should pay careful attention to your sleep needs during this time. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Eat a healthy diet and try to avoid things that cause you stress. If sleep problems disturb your daily life, you should seek help from your doctor.

III. Does Pregnancy Affect Women's Sleep?

A woman's body undergoes a great deal of stress during pregnancy. This can greatly reduce the quality of her sleep. Most women feel the need to sleep more at night. They also are more tired during the day. These are very common sleep changes. Most likely, they are the result of an increase in the levels of the hormone progesterone.

Women tend to have a poor quality of sleep in the late stages of pregnancy. Their sleep can be the worst during the last trimester. Studies have shown the two following changes in these sleep patterns:

  1. There is a decrease in the amount of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep).
  2. There is an increase in the number of times that a woman wakes up.

Women may find that it is hard to sleep in some positions. The amount of time that they are actually asleep at night decreases. It goes down by the second trimester and is worse in the third trimester.

There are other problems that cause poor sleep in the late stages of pregnancy. These can include the following:

  • Leg cramps
  • Backache
  • Heartburn
  • Movements of the fetus
  • General discomfort
  • Need to urinate more often

Through the entire pregnancy, women need to make sure that they get enough sleep. They should go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. As much as possible, they should also avoid things that cause stress. Sleeping pills and alcohol should not be used during pregnancy. Other options need to be considered to improve sleep. Muscle relaxation techniques may be a big help in leading to better sleep. They can also help lower the level of soreness during the pregnancy. It is important for a woman to maintain a balanced diet while she is pregnant. She can help prevent heartburn by avoiding heavy meals and spicy foods within two or three hours of bedtime.

Once the child is born, a woman faces new challenges. The baby's feeding and sleeping schedule places more demands upon the mother. It can be even harder for her to find the time to sleep. It is very important for the new mom to get plenty of rest. When a new mom's sleep is severely disrupted, it can lead to serious problems. In extreme cases, this lack of rest can be a cause of both postpartum depression and child abuse.

IV. What Sleep Changes Can Occur During Menopause?

The following natural changes in sleep go along with the process of aging in women:

  1. The amount of deep sleep decreases.
  2. Sleep becomes lighter.
  3. They wake up more often during the night.

Many women face increasing problems with sleep in the years before and after menopause. A gradual change in their sex hormone levels has a direct impact on their sleep. It also has an indirect impact by affecting other hormones that have a key role in how you sleep.

Hot flashes are related to decreased levels of estrogen. Hot flashes and night sweats can wake women up many times at night. Along with sweating and feeling hot, there is an increase in heart rate. Feelings of worry are also involved. Hot flashes usually last only a few minutes. In severe cases, they can wake women up as often as every hour. This can keep them from getting enough sleep and cause them to feel tired during the day. It can also make them grouchy and depressed.

The following tips may help ease problems with sleep that are caused by hot flashes:

  • Control the temperature in your bedroom. Use light and comfortable bed linen (preferably cotton).
  • Do not take a hot bath or shower within one or two hours of bedtime.
  • A light snack at bedtime may help.
  • Decrease the amount of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol in your diet. Increase vitamin E in your diet, or take a vitamin E supplement.
  • Consider hormone replacement therapy. This can help you sleep better by relieving severe hot flashes. Ask your doctor for advice about this kind of treatment.
  • A variety of medications and supplements are available at your local drugstore. While these may help, you need to be careful. Some supplements that you can find on the store shelves may be harmful. Your doctor can tell you what is safe to take. He can also prescribe the right medicines that will be safe and helpful for you.

V. What Sleep Changes Will Develop In The Postmenopausal Years?

The way that women sleep continues to change in the years after menopause. Their sleep grows lighter and is more broken up. It is much harder to stay asleep for a long time without waking up. It is also hard to stay awake for long periods of time during the day. This can make them very tired and sleepy during the day.

Other physical factors that can disturb sleep in the years after menopause include the following:

  • Arthritis and other painful conditions
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Some medications
  • Heartburn
  • A need to urinate more often

Some sleep disorders occur more often in the years after menopause. For example, sleep apnea is not found very often in young women. It is much more common in older women. This may be due to falling levels of progesterone. Younger women who go through surgical menopause also have a higher rate of sleep apnea. A high body weight and low level of physical activity can also play a part in causing this syndrome. Signs that you may have sleep apnea include snoring loudly as you sleep and feeling very tired during the day.

Other factors affecting how women sleep in the years after menopause include the following:

  • Quality of relationships with others
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Emotional state

Insomnia can often be linked to how much someone worries and is depressed. Other concerns and sources of tension may seem less important. These factors can still have a big role in reducing the quality of sleep.

To sleep better during the years after menopause, women should observe the following guidelines:

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable and safe place. Reduce noises and extreme temperatures that might disturb you.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid sleeping in late in the morning when you are tired.
  • Get up early in the morning and do regular daily activities.
  • At a regular time, consider taking an early afternoon nap of less than one hour.
  • Stay away from fatty, spicy foods that are likely to upset your stomach or cause heartburn.
  • Exercise regularly. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
  • See your doctor if following these measures does not make you more alert during the day.

VI. Are There Other Factors That Can Affect Women's Sleep?

Emotional issues can affect how a woman sleeps at any age. There are two specific problems that are faced by many women. Each of these conditions can have a negative effect upon women's sleep.

1. Depression
If you are a woman who suffers from depression, you may tend to fall asleep fairly quickly. Then you may wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to go back to sleep. This kind of insomnia can be wrongly seen as the cause of the depression. You might think, "If I could just get more sleep I would not feel depressed." Instead, it may be the depression that is causing you to wake up at night. Insomnia is a very common sleep complaint. It causes people to have a poor quality of sleep. It is also one of the most common signs of depression at any age. Getting help from a doctor or counselor for the depression can often solve the insomnia problem.

2. Nocturnal Eating Syndrome
Some women wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep. They feel like they must eat something in order to fall asleep again. Sometimes a medical condition, such as an ulcer, is the cause of this problem. Otherwise, it can be the result of a woman keeping a strict diet during the day.

VII. When Should I See a Healthcare Professional?

Anyone can have trouble getting a good night's sleep at times. These problems are often very minor and do not require medical attention. Serious sleep disorders, however, can disrupt your daily life. They can affect your job performance, your relationships, and your sense of well-being. When a sleep problem upsets your life in one of these areas, it may be time for you to see a doctor.

Women in particular are likely to have problems with how they sleep. The stress caused by conflicts in the home and trying to juggle many roles can be a heavy burden. These concerns can keep them from getting the relaxing, restful sleep that they need. Changes in hormone levels can also affect the quality of their sleep.

If problems with sleep are affecting your daily life, your doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist. He can do a full evaluation of your sleep problems. You may be asked to have your sleep monitored for a night at a sleep center. This will help your doctor find the cause of your problems. It will also allow him to develop the right treatment plan for you.

VIII. How To Sleep Well

You can often sleep better by simply following the practices of good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene consists of basic habits and tips that help you develop a pattern of healthy sleep. See the Resources section of this site to find out how you can start down the path to better sleep.

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