Women and sleep

Sleep women

Humans sleep one-third of their life. Sleep is essential for our physical, mental and emotional well-being. The average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, less than two-thirds of women get that amount of sleep each night, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Biological conditions unique to women — menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause — all affect how well women sleep. According to research, women get more sleep than men, but the quality of sleep is low when women prioritize taking care of others, experience interruption in their sleep or nap during the daytime — all of which further disrupt the quality of their sleep at night. 

Here are some common sleep problems that women experience and what you can do to overcome them. 


People with insomnia regularly have difficulties falling asleep as well as staying asleep. As a result, they do not feel refreshed when waking up and find it difficult to function during the daytime. Women may be more likely to experience insomnia due to hormonal changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, which can alter women’s circadian rhythm and consequently contribute to insomnia. 

Insomnia increases significantly in older women as they transition through menopause. Hot flashes and night sweats disrupt the sleep experience in 75% to 85% of women. Women are also nearly twice as likely as men to report depression and anxiety, which are closely connected to insomnia. 

Treatment for insomnia often begins with better sleep habits — following a regular sleep schedule, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and improving your sleep environment. If underlying conditions — such as depression, bladder problems or pain— contribute to insomnia you should consult with a specialist. 

Restless leg syndrome 

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) causes unpleasant crawling and tingling sensation in the legs, which occurs when lying down and is accompanied by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. RLS causes insomnia. Women are more likely than men to have RLS; risks are highly associated with women having multiple children and can increase from pregnancy to menopause. Iron deficiency is also a risk factor. Treatment may include iron supplements and other medication. Lifestyle changes may also improve RLS and poor sleep. 

Sleep apnea 

Sleep apnea disorder is characterized by a temporary pause in breathing during sleep. This causes loud snoring, choking or gasping sound that disrupts sleep and leads to excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is twice as common in men, although it increases after menopause in women. Obesity and menopause are two large risk factors for sleep apnea. Women who believe they have sleep apnea should consult with a specialist. Different and effective treatment options are available. 

Final takeaway 

Women perceive and report their sleep problems differently than men. This leads to delays in diagnosing and treating women for sleep disorders. Sleep problems should not be taken lightly and can affect women’s health and their quality of life. 

To improve your sleep, start with better sleep hygiene. Limit your caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake and eat a well-balanced diet. Engage in regular exercise and follow a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Make your bedroom environment ideal for sleep. 

Finally, address any mood disorders like depression or anxiety that are commonly associated with sleep disorders. 

Find more sleep tips from Northside Hospital Sleep Disorders Centers.


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Abul Matin, M.D., PhD picture

Abul Matin, M.D., PhD

Specialties: Pulmonary, Sleep Disorders Medicine

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Dr. Abul Matin is board-certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine. 

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