Mind & Body
Sleep Stealers for Women
5/3/2018 10:21:41 PM
Sleep Stealers

Lack of sleep and being female seem to go together. Sleep is affected by the changes that happen throughout a woman’s life, from hormones, to ovulation and pregnancy, and then menopause. The one constant throughout these evolutions seems to be sleep difficulties. 

In addition to physical changes through the years, sleep is often disturbed due to stress and anxiety; something the mother of any newborn through teen knows all too well, not to mention concern caused by difficulties at work, with finances, and other family members. 

So, what is a woman to do? Suffer sleepless nights forever?

Not at all, says Michelle Zimmerman, nurse practitioner with the Sleep Disorder Center of Louisiana. "It’s reassuring to know we have techniques, lifestyle adjustments, and medication options that make a difference for women in their quest for quality sleep.”

The recommended sleep guideline for men and women is between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Studies show that women need slightly more sleep than men, about twenty minutes, to feel optimally rested. 

"The body is at rest during sleep but the brain is busy. It processes information from the day, sorting it into categories that allow you to retrieve these memories later. It helps cement new information so that we can recall it later,” Zimmerman explains. "In addition, while asleep, the brain clears out toxins that build up during waking hours. Sleep is an essential component of good health, both for the mind and body.”

For women who struggle with sleep difficulties, some of the most common sleep stealers are:

Decline in estrogen. Hormones are powerful. Ask any woman in the throes of PMS or menopause. These hormonal changes can wreak havoc on sleep. When hormone levels spike or drop, such as during the menstrual cycle, during and after pregnancy, and especially around menopause, women may notice more difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep. 

In studies of estrogen’s effect on sleep, researchers found that estrogen played a subtle but specific effect on sleep. When estrogen levels were increased, women could fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. 
Zimmerman says blood tests are routine for sleep consultations and they can show hormone levels that are out of balance. "This helps us identify potential culprits for sleep problems. We can work with the patient and their ob/gyn or family practice physician on hormonal remedies,” she said. 

Low doses of estrogen have been shown to make a significant difference for women experiencing sleep difficulties. 

Menopause. One of the most common sleep stealers in women is menopause. Many of the symptoms occur during a time called perimenopause. This is the time that precedes menopause when the menstrual cycle becomes irregular; it’s usually during the late 40s and early 50s. During perimenopause, women often have night sweats, hot flashes during the day, and trouble sleeping. As estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone decline, sleep is often affected. 

According to findings from a 2017 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of perimenopausal women sleep less than seven hours a night, on average. Nearly one quarter of perimenopausal women said they have trouble falling asleep four or more times in a week.

"Menopause is a significant life event for women, often affecting their overall quality of life. When sleep is compromised, it’s important to seek help. We work in conjunction with a family physician to get to the source of the problem so that our patients can sleep well,” Zimmerman explains. 

Poor Sleep Hygiene. In many cases, a good night’s sleep requires preparation. Being busy right up until bedtime is not sleep inducing. "If you’re going at top speed at 9:30 at night, it’s going to be difficult for your brain and your body to slow down enough to fall asleep,” Zimmerman says. 

"In order for a woman to maintain a great quality of life, continue performing well at work, and nurture valuable relationships, she needs to sleep well. If that isn’t happening, it helps to talk with a sleep specialist about any sleep troubles that are occurring.”

For more information, call the Sleep Disorder Center of Louisiana at (337) 310-REST or 7378, or visit sleepdisordercenterofla.com.
Posted by: Christine Fisher | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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