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This information was reviewed and approved by Robert J. Lapidus, MD (3/1/2015).

Help for Sleepy Women

If you are a woman and have difficulty sleeping, you are not alone.

According to the 2008 National Sleep Foundation poll, 53 percent of women get a good night's sleep ONLY a few nights each month. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of women who get less than six hours of sleep per night has increased at alarming rates in women ages 45-74 during the last 20 years.


Why Women Are Not Sleeping

Stress. Worries. Weight. Hormones. Obligations. These are just a few of the factors that keep moms, wives, daughters and sisters counting sheep at night and fighting to function during the day.

In addition to sleep problems during the last trimester of pregnancy (due to frequent urination, heartburn, discomfort, fetal movements, low back pain and leg cramps) sleep in women becomes lighter and less sound as they get older. Physical and hormonal changes, such as menopause, cause sleep disturbances that include waking during the night, hot flashes, snoring and daytime fatigue.

Whether it's self-imposed sleep restriction (cutting into our sleep time because we're too busy) or whether we don't get enough sleep due to insomnia or another sleep problem, insufficient sleep makes us:

  • Less productive at work and home
  • At risk for making mistakes at work and at home
  • Prone to poor concentration
  • Unsociable
  • Less patient with children and others
  • Emotional
  • Dangerous drivers

Do you have these common symptoms?

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Extreme daytime sleepiness

If you answered "YES" to any of these, talk with your doctor because you may have a sleep disorder. You may also want to keep a sleep diary, or sleep logs, for a week or two before you see the doctor to help accurately describe your sleep. A sleep diary records information about the quality and quantity of nighttime sleep. It also helps you and your doctor keep track of patterns in your sleep.

Your doctor may have you fill out a sleepiness scale, a questionnaire to help objectively measure your sleepiness.


Educate Yourself

Sleep disorders that are common in women include:

  • Insomnia - #1 Sleep Stealer
    Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in women, especially premenopausal women. It is the failure to fall, remain asleep, or both. Sleep is light and easily disturbed. This sleep problem causes problems in daytime functioning. Insomnia can start in early childhood and can be life long if not addressed.

          Learn about causes of insomnia and ways to manage them.

  • Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue
    If you can't stay awake long enough to complete daily tasks or fall asleep inappropriately you have a problem with excessive sleepiness.

          Learn about causes of excessive sleepiness and ways to manage them.

  • Restless Leg Syndrome
    Restless leg syndrome (RLS) creates an uncomfortable feeling in the lower legs and limbs, and sometimes in the arms. Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is characterized by frequent leg movements. Either disorder can make it difficult to sleep. Learn about Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and Restless Legs Syndrome and how the conditions are treated.
  • Sleep Disordered Breathing
    Do you snore loudly? Do you have interrupted breathing during sleep, disrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness? If yes, you may have sleep apnea. In premenopausal women the risk of having sleep apnea is about half of that in same-aged men. However, after menopause, the rates of sleep apnea among women are nearly equal to those of same-aged men.

          Learn about sleep apnea and ways to manage this disorder.

If left untreated, some sleep disorders can cause medical problems.

Help yourself by learning more about your sleep problems and then talk with your doctor about management and treatment.


Diagnosing Sleep Disorders

A sleep specialist will use a variety of information to diagnose your sleep disorder: It may include: a detailed history, medication history, physical exam, sleep diary, sleep study, and other testing. Learn more about diagnosing a sleep disorder.

If you have a sleep disorder, it's important to practice good sleep habits to improve the quality of your sleep. Learn tips for maintaining good sleep habits.

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