November 09, 2017
It's a cruel fact that quality shut-eye deserts women when they need it most.
Like maintaining strong, healthy bones and keeping unwanted weight off, getting a good night's sleep is another thing that becomes more difficult with age.
Unfortunately for women, the quest for quality sleep can be more challenging than it is for men — and not just because they're more likely to be disturbed by a partner's snoring, as a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed.
"Women are twice as likely as men to report difficulty with their sleep," Dr Moira Junge, a psychologist and sleep specialist from the Sleep Health Foundation tells Coach.
"Some are affected worse than others, but most women report some adverse changes to their sleep quality and quantity with menopause.
"It's often the first time a woman has experienced difficulties with sleep in her life."
What's stealing women's sleep?
Changes in the body during pre-, peri- and post-menopause and the stress of balancing work and caring for family members are the main factors, Junge says.
"Studies have shown a relationship between menopause and sleep disturbance due to the distinct and specific changes to a woman's hormones (during this time)."
There has been surprisingly little research into the link between hormonal changes in women and sleeplessness, but hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety and depression are common symptoms of menopause that are likely to affect sleep.
"The middle to late life stage is also often a peak time for a woman as she juggles the demands of work, dependent children and aging parents," Junge explains.
"It's common for women to be the main caregiver in these roles, and so there is a lot of pressure on them, hence making sleeping more difficult."
How to reclaim your 'Zzzs'
A fluctuating body temperature could be keeping you up at night, Junge says.
"Have an adequate combination of bedding options readily available to deal with any hot flashes in the night, such as a light sheet or blanket, as well as a heavier doona."
Reducing screen time one or two hours before bed, being exposed to lots of sunlight during the day and getting up at the same time every morning may also help.
Junge adds that while sleep routines are important, it's better to go to bed when you feel tired, rather than forcing yourself to if your mind is still racing and anxious.
"It's about going to bed when you feel sleepy and tired, and this may vary slightly from night to night depending on many variables.
"You're better off going to bed when you feel ready, rather than being strict with yourself because you're concerned about not being consistent."In fact, it's an unfair irony that worrying about it is the worst thing you can do when trying to improve the quality of your sleep.
"The most important thing to know is that sleep is going to be better and easier to obtain if there is no distress around sleep itself," Junge says.
"That should be your guiding principle, and the rest is about trying to optimize your health, fitness and general wellbeing, and minimise stress as much as possible."
A visit to a GP will help you to determine the best sleep-inducing solution for you, whether it's melatonin tablets, medication or identifying and reducing stressors.
Erin Van Der Meer
Updated November 9th 2017
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