If you’re having trouble sleeping, know that you’re not alone. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 67% of women have problems with their sleep.1
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition where you experience difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up too early. It can be brought on by a multitude of factors, including stress, pain, certain medications and medical conditions, hormonal changes, and disturbances due to light or noise (such as a crying baby or snoring partner!).
Insomnia that lasts anywhere from a few days to weeks is considered acute, and is usually linked to a stressful event in your life. Chronic insomnia is more serious because it lasts longer, for at least 3 nights a week and for more than 3 months — the lack of quality sleep for such long periods of time can cause severe fatigue, irritability, and problems with memory and focus.
Is insomnia more common in women?
Yes it is. Studies have shown that women have a 40% higher lifetime risk of insomnia than men.2 In particular, the likelihood of insomnia significantly increases during menopause, with around 50% of women in their midlife being affected by insomnia.3
Why is insomnia more common in women?
Sleep experts believe that insomnia may be more common in women due to a combination biological and psychosocial differences between genders.4
Biologically, sleep in women is affected by hormonal changes, and the effect on quality and quantity of sleep is compounded by the often challenging physical, mental, and emotional side effects of such changes during the puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
From a psychosocial perspective, women continue to take on a disproportionate burden of care giving for young children and the elderly. The mental load women carry across all areas of their life is immense, and often a contributing factor to sleep issues. Women are also more likely to have a bed partner that snores, and are more likely to experience anxiety and depression which in turn affects sleep. An underlying gender bias in how women’s sleep complaints are evaluated in the clinic may also contribute to ongoing sleeping problems for some women.
Treating insomnia in women
When it comes to treating insomnia, CBT-i is the recommended first-line treatment by the Australasian Sleep Association.5 CBT-i is a type of sleep therapy that uses a non-medication approach to help you sleep better. It aims to help you break old habits and patterns that interfere with sleep and replace them with new behaviours and thoughts that bring on sleep naturally.
CBT-i is an effective way to treat insomnia, and improvements in sleep may be seen in 2 to 3 weeks of starting therapy.6 Compared with sleeping pills, it’s effects may be longer lasting and sustained over time7
CBT-i is a structured program, but it’s applied differently for each individual. A psychologist trained in CBT-i can guide you on the right techniques and how best to apply them to your individual context and circumstances.
Why treat insomnia?
Not sleeping well is a 24-hour issue, not an 8-hour problem. Inadequate sleep could negatively affect your mood and focus.8 And in turn, could impact how you show up to your life and your relationships, at work and at home.
If sleep is something you’re struggling with, do speak with your doctor to discuss the best options for managing your symptoms. By taking a proactive approach to sleep health, you can look forward to a better quality of life for you and the people you care about.