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Insomnia and Women: A Common Combination

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are two forms of insomnia, acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is often brought on by situations such as stress at work or at home, other pressures in the family, or a traumatic event. Acute insomnia generally lasts for days or weeks and isn’t caused by medical conditions, medicines or substances.

Chronic insomnia can last for a month or even longer. Typically, most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary—which means they are an indication or side effect of another issue. In some instances, medical conditions, medicines and other substances can be leading factors in the cause of chronic insomnia.

Insomnia isn’t limited to a certain age group. It can occur at any age but is more prevalent in adult women. One reason is due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause. In addition, pregnant women experience hormonal, physical and emotional changes that can greatly disrupt their night.

Some medical conditions that may cause chronic insomnia and are more common in women than men include stress, depression and anxiety. Stress is the core cause of anxiety and depression. The American Psychological Association states that while nearly 6 million American men suffer from depression, twice as many women are affected. 

Stress can be brought on by any event or situation that can make you feel frustrated, angry or nervous, whereas anxiety is more of a feeling of unease, worry and fear. Some common causes of stress may include: 

  • Starting a new job or school
  • Monetary difficulties
  • Moving to a new home
  • Getting married
  • Having a child
  • Getting separated or divorced
  • An injury or illness experienced by you, a friend, or loved one

When feeling stressed, you may experience a fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling and dizziness. Occasionally, certain medications may cause or worsen symptoms of stress including thyroid drugs, diet pills, cold remedies and some inhaler medicines used to treat asthma.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for insomnia helps identify the thoughts and actions that can disrupt sleep, and encourages good sleep habits with the use of proven methods to alleviate sleep anxiety. The National Institutes of Health states that CBT aims to replace sleep anxiety with positive thinking that relates being in bed with being asleep. This approach also gives guidance as to what to do if you are unable to fall asleep within a desirable time. This type of therapy may also involve talking one-on-one with a therapist or in a group to share thoughts and feelings about sleep. Another focal point of CBT is limiting the time you spend in bed while awake. This approach will help to set a sleep schedule.

Getting a better night of sleep can vary from person to person and, as is the case with any task, can take time. Some tips to consider include:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink especially before bed
  • Create a bedtime ritual
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable
  • Limit daytime naps
  • Manage stress
  • Initiate lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and alcohol in moderation.

Getting enough sleep every night is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. Believe it or not, lack of sleep can be just as detrimental as a lack of food. If you are experiencing sleep issues or insomnia, contact the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Centers at 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703) or fill out our secure, online appointment request form

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