Women and Sleep

Sleep isn’t just “time out” from daily life. Rather, it’s an active state that is important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. When we sleep, our bodies rest, but our brains are active. Sleep lays the groundwork for a productive day ahead. Research has shown that a lack of restful sleep results in daytime sleepiness, increased accidents, problems concentrating, poor performance on the job and in school, and possibly, increased sickness.

The Menstrual Cycle and Sleep: Some women wake more frequently and experience other sleep disturbances during their premenstrual state, while others report excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue and longer sleep hours.

Pregnancy and Sleep: Pregnancy-related sleep disturbances are well-known and well documented. In a NSF poll, 78% of women reported more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at other times.

Pregnancy Sleep Tips:

  • Use special “pregnancy pillows” to support your body
  • Take naps
  • In the third trimester, sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys
  • To prevent heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), or fried foods. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated.

Menopause and Sleep: In the perimenopausal period, many women experience sleep disturbances with changing levels of sex hormones. The overall amount of deep sleep decreases, sleep becomes lighter and more awakening occurs during the night. Hot flashes (unexpected feelings of heat all over the body) and night sweats can cause repeated awakenings and anxiety.

These Other Sleep Disorders are More Prevalent in Women

  • Restless Leg Syndrome: Patients report leg cramps, tingling, numbness in legs, electric sensation, or a “charlie horse” which is a disorder unto itself.
  • Sleep Disordered Breathing: Patients with Increased Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome generally experience loud snoring and excessive fatigue and/or daytime sleepiness.
  • Depression: Depression due to chemical imbalance is usually accompanied by early morning awakening. Patients usually wake up around 3 a.m. and cannot return to sleep.

Nocturnal Eating/Drinking Syndrome: This syndrome is thought to be an illness by itself, although some patients report that they are attempting strict daytime dieting.