Women & Sleep

Finding your goodnight zzz’s

GOOD NIGHT, LADIES!
With more than half of American females reporting sleep trouble on a weekly basis, insomnia is clearly a woman’s issue. Experts offer the best advice for getting the rest you crave despite stress, hot flashes- even a snoring bedmate.

YOU’RE EXHAUSTED, but you can’t sleep. As you toss, turn, and try to will yourself into relaxation, your thoughts begin to pinball: Did you respond to that last e-mail, remind yourself to make a dentist appointment, be sure to call back to so and so who left you a message…… and on and on and on.

Sound familiar? According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% percent of American women say they get a good night’s sleep only a few nights a week or fewer, and 43% say sleepiness interferes with their daily activities. “Part of this discrepancy has to do with women’s roles,” says Dr. Katherine Sharkey, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. Mothers, most often, are the ones who respond to a crying child at 3a.m. Furthermore, pregnancy and menopause are “major milestones that promote sleep challenges.” *

Yes, hormones are at least partly to blame – especially starting around age 40. As women’s bodies enter perimenopause, the ovaries start slowing their production of both progesterone and estrogen, which helps promote sleep. When true menopause hits, the hot flashes caused by hormone fluctuations can wake women, who then often have a harder time falling back
to sleep.

THE SLEEP MIND-SET 
Whether your insomnia is a result of hormones or horrible work stress, a consistent bedtime routine will help. People need to allow themselves a transitional period before bed. Every night, an hour or so before your target sleep time, taper off any stimulating or stressful activities (e.g., reading work e-mails!) and begin a wind down routine. It can be an evening stroll, a warm bath, meditation, or reading-whatever you find relaxing. Lois E. Krahn, a psychiatrist and sleep expert at the Mayo Clinic Phoenix, says, “It’s our curiosity that’s a sleep killer; if you have the urge to read every last tweet or Facebook message, leave your phone in a different room.”

Another word of wisdom: Don’t try to force shut-eye.
And, don’t try to combat insomnia by simply going to bed earlier. What happens is you end up spending more hours awake in bed and sacrificing deeper, better sleep.

Ready the Room
It might sound obvious, but it bears repeating: A dark, quiet room will encourage sleep, and, if you’re awakened, set the stage for falling back asleep more easily. Blackout shades, white-noise machines, and earplugs can help.

Tune Out Noise 
Environmental factors that are more difficult to control are the sleep habits of one’s loved ones, both human and animal. Heavy snorers can significantly disturb their bedmates sleep. The sufferers are usually women, and, according to one study, they can lose an average of one hour of sleep a night due to this so-called form of “spousal-arousal syndrome.” If the snoring is a consistent problem, the snorer should consult a physician.

Easy Zzzzs
With the heightened awareness of the health benefits of sleep, marketers have been busy trying to sell the public on sleep aids that promise a good night’s rest. “There’s a giant sleep industrial complex out there,” warns Sharkey, who does not recommend any of these gadgets. “These products are often unproven and can provoke more anxiety about sleeping.”

Easy Does  It… A quick overview of popular sleep aids and supplements

  • Chamomile Tea- The herbal tea is famed as a sleep aid, but the data has been inconclusive. If it works for you, by all means sip it before bed.
  • Melatonin- The hormonal supplement can help combat jet lag or support a major shift in sleep schedule, but it’s not recommended for general insomnia. (It can cause daytime sleepiness and dizziness).
  • Valerian Root- There is some evidence that the popular sedative, known as herbal valium, helps sleep disorders, though studies have been inconclusive. The long-term safety of this herb is unknown.

 

*Portions of this article are excerpted from: Good Night Ladies, Martha Stewart.com, page 136.