Uncovering How Women Sleep

Many women have trouble sleeping. Find out what keeps women awake and what can be done to improve your sleep.

American women are losing more sleep than ever. This lack of rest can affect almost every aspect of your life. Poor sleep can make you late for work and feel stressed. It may also leave you little energy or time for fun.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that women are more likely to have sleep problems than men. Women's sleep problems can also change over time and may get worse at different stages in life.

According to the NSF, seven out of 10 of stay-at-home mothers, working mothers and single working women are likely to have insomnia a few nights each week.

Despite this, women are not getting to bed earlier. During the hour before going to bed, instead of retiring early, many women:

  • Watch TV
  • Finish chores
  • Do activities with children
  • Spend time on the Internet

Sleep problems in women
Women may have one of several sleep problems depending on their stage of life. Some common problems are:

  • Insomnia. More women than men have insomnia at least a few nights per week. These sleepless nights may come from menstruation, pregnancy, menopause or poor sleep habits.
  • Sleep apnea. This sleep disorder involves snoring, interrupted breathing and excessive daytime sleepiness. Although it's more common in men, one in four women over age 65 may have it.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). RLS includes sensations in the legs during rest that may force people to move them around for relief. PLMD includes involuntary leg twitching or jerking during sleep.
  • Narcolepsy. It often includes an overwhelming urge to sleep, with sudden loss of muscle tone or strength.
  • Pain. More women than men suffer from nighttime pain. This pain or discomfort often interrupts their sleep. Such things as migraines, tension headaches, arthritis and heartburn commonly keep women from getting a good night's sleep.

Tips for a good night's sleep
When time is scarce, about half of women will sacrifice sleep and exercise. But sticking to a healthy routine may help you beat sleep issues.

  • Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and wake up the same time each day, even weekends.
  • Don't exercise too late. Finish any workouts five or six hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Stimulation from caffeine can take eight hours to wear off.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Alcohol causes you to sleep lighter. When its effects have worn off, you are more likely to wake up.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late night. Indigestion can interfere with sleep. Too many fluids can increase urination.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt sleep. This includes decongestants.
  • Don't nap during the day. Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Relax before bed. Light activity, like reading, listening to music or a warm bath, can be part of a bedtime ritual.
  • Have a good sleeping environment. Avoid things in the bedroom that can distract you from sleep, like noise, bright lights, the TV or a computer.
  • Don't lie in bed awake. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep. If you are still lying awake after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
  • See a doctor if problems persist. A family doctor or a sleep specialist can diagnose a sleep disorder and help you get a restful sleep.