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Published on April 01, 2011

Women's Wellness April 2011

What Every Woman Should Know about Insomnia

According the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), insomnia occurs when a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, wakes up too early, or does not feel refreshed after sleeping. It is a common sleep complaint that tends to be more common in women than in men.

But you don't need to lose sleep over the fact that you're losing sleep! To understand insomnia, learn what's keeping you up at night. Insomnia is often related to another problem such as depression, stress or anxiety, life events, illness, bad sleep habits, medication use, and physical or hormonal changes. In older women, it is often caused by other medical problems, like arthritis and back pain. It can also be caused by other sleep disorders including sleep apnea, snoring or restless legs syndrome.

Pregnancy and menopause can also cause insomnia. Because a woman’s body goes through drastic changes that can be physical, hormonal and emotional, these periods of a woman’s life can often affect sleep.

Fortunately, several of the reasons women don’t get a good night’s sleep can be fixed by taking the appropriate steps to make changes. First and foremost, women need to make sleep a priority. The AASM offers the following tips to a better night’s sleep: 

  • Stress, both physical and mental, is a major cause of insomnia. If something is bothering you, try to deal with it during the day, so it doesn't keep you up at night worrying.
  • Avoid alcohol after 6 p.m. at night and caffeine after 2 p.m. Both can keep you awake at night.
  • Keep your bedroom cool rather than warm, dim rather than bright, and dry rather than humid for optimum sleeping conditions.
  • Make certain your bed is adequately sized for you and your partner, and that it offers proper support so you feel comfortable and relaxed while sleeping.
  • Take some time choosing a pillow that really feels good. A pillow that's too soft or too hard can cause sleep problems.
  • Don't bring your work or your laptop into bed at night. Instead, look to do something that helps your mind unwind—like reading or listening to relaxing music.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
  • If you need to take a nap, keep it to less than one hour and take it before 3 p.m.
  • Increase vitamin E in your diet, or take a vitamin E supplement.
  • Hormone replacement therapy may help you sleep better by relieving severe hot flashes related to menopause. Ask your doctor for advice about this kind of treatment.
  • Only use sleeping pills when supervised by a doctor.

For more information on sleep disorders, or to schedule an appointment at one of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Centers, call 1-888-SLEEP03 (1-888-753-3703) or fill out a secure online request form at http://sleepcenters.crozer.org.

Reviewed by Andrew Borson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist for the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Centers. Dr. Borson has offices in Ridley Park and Broomall, and can be reached at (610) 595-6276.

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