Everyone experiences the occasional night of tossing and turning when counting a million sheep still results in getting zero shuteye. However, when insomnia persists night after night, it can cause a host of health problems, such as weight gain, increased risks of cardiovascular disease, depression and, in severe enough cases, suicide. So, just how common is insomnia in women?
While it’s true the condition knows no boundaries of gender lines, women do experience sleeplessness at higher rates than their male peers. Multiple reasons exist for why insomnia occurs. Let’s look into this condition a little more.
How Common Is Insomnia?
Insomnia impacts one in seven adults and one in four women. Two types of insomnia exist: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia occurs when the inability to sleep is the only discernible symptom. Secondary insomnia occurs when another underlying health disorder leads to sleeplessness.
Adults aged 26-64 need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Naturally, the amount of sleep required hinges upon several factors, including the degree of physical and mental exhaustion a woman feels. Those who don’t suffer insomnia or who experience it only rarely report sleeping slightly longer the night after they’ve had difficulty counting sheep.
Common Causes of Insomnia
Multiple reasons exist as to why people of both genders suffer from insomnia. Some common causes of inability to sleep include:
- Stress. When you’re under a lot of pressure at work, or you’re having difficulties in your home life, stress can render sleep impossible. Many people report racing thoughts, and they lie awake worrying about all that could go wrong. Practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation can help with insomnia related to stress.
- Restless leg syndrome. Those with restless leg syndrome experience unpleasant sensations in their legs, most often when they are at rest. This discomfort results in a need to move the limbs. When restless leg occurs at night, it wakes those with the condition up repeatedly, even though they may be unaware of all the waking episodes.
- Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes obstructed during the night. The disease usually impacts those who are overweight, as excess fat increases pressure on the windpipe. As with restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea sufferers may not realize their condition wakes them up several times nightly, but daytime sleepiness is a giveaway.
- Too much caffeine. If you down cuppa after cuppa throughout the day, sleeplessness at night can result. Although it seems logical to turn to caffeine to perk you up when you’re tired, doing so too often robs you of precious nights in dreamland. Aim to consume no caffeine after 3 p.m. — if this fails, try pushing the cutoff time back in 30-minute increments until you find relief.
While both men and women may develop insomnia for any of the reasons listed above, some causes of sleeplessness are unique to the female body. Hormonal fluctuations over the course of a month can cause periodic insomnia in many (pun loosely intended). Additionally, pregnancy causes hormonal changes, providing another answer to the question of, “How common is insomnia in women?”
One secondary cause of insomnia is anxiety, and more women than men suffer from this mental health disorder. Women can even experience nightly panic attacks during periods of hormonal shifts that wake them shivering with nightmare sweat. Women also experience depression at higher rates than men, and while this may rob them of their energy during the day, it often keeps them tossing and turning at night.
Another condition more women suffer from than men is fibromyalgia. Although the condition impacts both men and women, the vast majority of sufferers are female. Fibromyalgia results in chronic, widespread pain that can make sleeping in any position painful. Other pain conditions, such as arthritis, can also lead to lack of sleep.
How to Overcome Sleeplessness
Fortunately, methods exist for treating insomnia both naturally and medically. Trying natural methods usually marks the first approach, but if these fail to work, consulting a medical professional is the best course of action. A doctor can rule out any underlying medical issues like apnea.
Natural treatments for insomnia include amping up your exercise quotient, backing off on caffeine and practicing solid sleep hygiene techniques. Strive to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day or at least most days of the week. If you’re a peak performance athlete, you may need to incorporate techniques like high-impact interval training (HIIT) to tucker yourself out.
Proper sleep hygiene includes going to bed and waking up at the same time daily — even on weekends. It also means keeping electronic devices such as cellphones, laptops and even TVs out of the bedroom. Reserve your bedroom as a sanctuary for two things only — sleep and sharing intimate relations.
Practicing some soothing yoga before hitting the sack can prove helpful, as can sipping on chamomile and lavender tea designed to bring on restorative slumber. Warm milk also helps some, so feel free to add this into the mix.
If these techniques fail, make an appointment with your primary care physician. They can identify disorders like sleep apnea and fit you with a CPAP machine if necessary. They also can prescribe sleep aids that provide temporary relief from lack of rest.
Considering 328,000 auto accidents occur annually as the result of drivers feeling tired behind the wheel, treating your insomnia matters. You could save your life or the life of another by seeking help — literally.
A Good Nights’ Rest for All
So how common is insomnia? Now you know. It stinks no matter who suffers from it, but the burden of this condition falls primarily on female shoulders. It’s imperative to take measures for self-care when you experience a sleepless night or two. Everyone deserves a solid rest at the end of a hectic day.