A good night's sleep is vital to a person's overall health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, people who get enough sleep get sick less often, are more able to maintain a healthy weight and are at lower risk for serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. But many adults are not getting enough quality sleep, and one group in particular may be especially likely to have sleep problems.
A 2006 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine found that women have more sleep-related complaints than men. The study suggested gender differences, including menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause, may underlie the observed differences in risk of sleep disorders.
Women cannot control the biological factors that may make them more vulnerable to sleep issues. However, they are not helpless when it comes to their efforts to get adequate rest.
• Create a better sleep environment. The National Sleep Foundation notes that the optimal bedroom temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintaining a cool sleeping environment is even more important for women than men due to the increases in core body temperature during menstruation. A cool environment is more conducive to better sleep and can help women stay cool even when their body temperatures rise due to menstruation.
• Bathe before bedtime. A warm bath or shower prior to bedtime can lead to a decrease in body temperature, which the NSF notes can spark feelings of sleepiness. This can help with sleep onset when coupled with a cool bedroom temperature.
• Establish a bedtime routine. The DHHS notes that establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine, including going to bed at the same time each night, can help women overcome their sleep issues. Over time, the body will readjust and grow accustomed to going to bed at this time, increasing the likelihood of falling asleep. Stick to this routine throughout the week, including on weekends.
• Avoid certains substances close to bedtime. The NSF advises against consuming caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime. Each of these substances can compromise a woman's ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. For example, the Cleveland Clinic notes that while alcohol before bed may help people feel sleepy, that sedative effect wears off as the alcohol begins to metabolize. That process prevents the body from entering the stages of deep sleep, leading to more frequent sleep interruptions throughout the night.
Women who are having trouble sleeping can try various strategies to overcome their issues. Women with chronic sleeping problems can consult their physicians about additional ways to get better, more consistent sleep.