In almost every Sleep in America poll completed in the last decade by the National Sleep Foundation, the findings have shown that women have more trouble sleeping than men. Women are more likely to be a patient at a sleep clinic, more likely to use sleep aids to fall asleep, and more likely to average less than 7 hours sleep per night. As more research is conducted and the link between lack of sleep and long term health consequences is solidified, figuring out why women can’t sleep will only become more important.
In the NSF’s 2007 Women and Sleep study almost 30% of women reported getting a good night sleep only a couple times a month or less. Across the study, 67% of participants reported having difficulty sleeping at least a couple times a week and almost 50% reported that those sleep problems were present almost every night. Women who report having problems sleeping almost every night are more likely to have missed a day of work and driven drowsy in the last month. They are also more likely to be significantly overweight and to use sleep aids several times a week.
So what is it that is keeping us up at night? Here are 4 of the most common reasons women can’t sleep.
1. We have fewer compartments.
Men are thought to be masters at compartmentalization, which may be one reason they seem to have fewer sleepless nights caused by worry, stress, and anxiety. In the Women and Sleep Study, almost 80% of women reported that some nights they are just too stressed to fall asleep. Perhaps the inability to sort the different parts of our lives into compartments and close the doors when we aren’t dealing with them contributes to the discrepancy between sleep issues in men and women.
2. We have constantly shifting hormones.
Women have a lot going on and not just on their daily schedule. Over the course of each month, our bodies are a sea of ever shifting hormones that can affect our sleep. Menopause, pregnancy, and our monthly cycles can team up with bad sleep habits, and less than optimal lifestyle choices to rob us of the sleep we need to be effective.
3. We can’t afford to drop any balls.
Life for women has always been hard work, but these days, most women simply cannot find enough time in their day to take care of all the things they are responsible for. This has created a generation of women who are expert jugglers. The problem with juggling so many things, however, is that if one thing slips it disrupts the entire act. With so much at stake, we cannot afford to drop any balls and when we reach the end of our day and there is still work to be done, we are more apt to give up sleep than risk letting something drop.
4. We don’t have a wife at home to do half the work.
As women forced their way into the workforce, the law of unintended consequences set in and women everywhere began to realize that the work of running a household doesn’t go away when we get a job outside the home. Even though our partners and husbands have stepped up to share the burden, there is just too much to do when you have two people and three full time jobs.
As research continues to uncover how sleep affects our health and wellbeing, understanding the unique challenges women face in getting the sleep they need will guide doctors and researchers to new ways to help overcome those challenges.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.