Why do women have more sleep issues than men?

Elise Petit, MD
Sleep clinician

Adequate sleep is fundamental for overall health and well-being. However, sleep-related problems affect numerous individuals worldwide, with women being particularly susceptible. Research indicates that women are 2x more likely than men to experience sleep issues due to a myriad of factors, including hormonal influences, pregnancy, and lifestyle choices. In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve deeper into these factors, examining their impact on women's sleep health, and provide expert insights on how to address these challenges effectively.

Hormonal Influences on Women's Sleep

Women's sleep patterns are intricately tied to hormonal fluctuations. Throughout the menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate, potentially impacting sleep quality. During the luteal phase, characterized by increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, women may encounter difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep (1). Conversely, the hormonal shifts during menopause, accompanied by declining estrogen levels, can lead to hot flashes and night sweats, disrupting sleep (2). Understanding these hormonal influences is crucial for designing personalized sleep strategies.

Sleep Challenges During Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about a multitude of physiological changes that can significantly affect sleep. Many pregnant women experience discomfort, including back pain, heartburn, and restless leg syndrome, which can hinder their ability to attain restful sleep (3). Moreover, hormonal fluctuations and the growing baby can contribute to sleep disturbances, making it vital to address these issues to promote better sleep health for expectant mothers.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Lifestyle Choices and Sleep

Women's sleep can also be influenced by their lifestyles and daily responsibilities. The unique demands of childcare and household management often place additional stress on women, leading to anxiety and sleep disruptions (4). Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, particularly when working long hours or shouldering a heavier workload, further compromising sleep quality (5). Implementing effective stress management techniques and establishing healthy sleep habits become essential to mitigate these challenges.

How do sleep issues affect women's overall well-being?

The repercussions of sleep issues extend beyond mere inconvenience. Sleep problems can significantly impact women's overall health and well-being, contributing to a range of health conditions. Sleep deprivation has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and obesity, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety (6). Addressing sleep challenges is imperative to promote optimal health outcomes for women.

Addressing Sleep Issues for Women

Recognizing the specific sleep challenges faced by women is vital for developing effective strategies to enhance sleep health. Tailored approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi), can be effective in managing sleep issues (6). Here are some other actionable recommendations:

1. Hormonal Balance

-Consult with healthcare professionals to explore options for managing hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and menopause.

-Incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to promote better sleep during hormonal shifts.

2. Pregnancy Sleep Support

-Utilize pregnancy pillows or other supportive sleep aids to alleviate discomfort and enhance sleep quality.

-Establish a soothing bedtime routine, including relaxation exercises and minimizing screen time, to prepare the body and mind for sleep.

3. Stress Management

-Engage in stress-reducing activities, such as yoga or mindfulness practices, to alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation before bedtime.

-Delegate tasks and seek support from loved ones to alleviate the burden of responsibilities.

4. Healthy Sleep Habits

-Prioritize consistent sleep and wake-up times, creating a sleep-friendly environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.

-Limit exposure to electronic devices before bed and establish a wind-down routine to signal the body for sleep.

Empowering Women for Restful Sleep and Optimal Well-being

Women face unique sleep challenges influenced by hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, and lifestyle choices. Addressing these challenges is vital for promoting women's overall health and well-being. By implementing personalized sleep strategies and adopting healthy sleep habits, women can improve their sleep quality and enhance their quality of life. It is crucial to raise awareness, provide targeted resources, and foster an environment that prioritizes women's sleep health. Let us strive to empower women to achieve restorative sleep and unlock their full potential.

References:

  1. Adan, A., et al. (2019). Menstrual cycle and sleep: a review. Sleep Medicine, 57, 6-15.
  2. Kronenberg, F. (2018). Hot flashes: epidemiology and physiology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1436(1), 33-44.
  3. Mindell, J. A., et al. (2015). Sleep patterns and sleep disturbances across pregnancy. Sleep Medicine, 16(4), 483-488.
  4. Lallukka, T., et al. (2010). Work hours and sleep disturbances: the 2000/01 Finnish Quality of Work Life Survey. Sleep, 33(6), 729-738.
  5. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance and health. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-deprivation-impact-cognitive-performance-and-health
  6. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2020). Clinical guideline for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia in adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 16(5), 1-72.
  7. American Association of Sleep Medicine. Retrieved from https://aasm.org/women-more-likely-than-men-to-never-feel-well-rested-according-to-aasm-survey/

November 1, 2023
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