Women more likely to suffer from insomnia

Sleep Hygiene may be the key to a good night sleep

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - Women, do you feel like you aren't getting enough sleep? Recent studies show you probably aren't. The National Sleep Foundation says insomnia occurs twice as often in women as men.

That's no surprise to Dawn Jarman of Longwood. She says she wakes up in the middle of the night on average six nights a week. She started noticing it about five years ago. Falling asleep isn't her problem. Staying asleep is. She's tried any number of things to make it through the night but nothing seems to work.

"I don't get up and do anything," she said. "I don't want to make myself stay awake and I think if I were to get up and do things, I think that would wake me up even more."

Stories like Jarman's don't surprise Dr. Clelia Lima, a clinician at Florida Hospital's Sleep Disorder Center. She sees many patients dealing with similar problems.

"When you say insomnia, it's true, women are more prevalent," Lima said. "I think we worry more than men maybe."

She laughs but concedes the problem is not to be taken lightly. Chronic lack of sleep has a correlation with high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, depression and even high cholesterol.

Several issues specific to women may increase the chances of having sleep problems. Women report having nightmares more often than men. Women report having migraines more than men which can interfere with sleep and sleep interruption can cause migraines, as well. Women more than men are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a painful condition which can also interfere with sleep. Post-menopausal women (particularly those who have gained weight) are also at risk for sleep apnea.

There is also the issue of sleeping with a partner who snores. This, too, can cause sleeping problems.

Dr. Lima stresses that there are many other health disorders that can affect sleep. Apnea, for instance, is being diagnosed more and more often in women.

As with any health problem, you should talk to your primary care physician if you're having sleep issues. It's a topic they may not take the initiative on to ask you about first.

There are a variety of approaches to help insomnia but Dr. Lima says many patients will do well on their own following the list below of simple "Sleep Hygiene."

1) Go to sleep in the evening and get up in the morning at the same time, even on weekends or holidays.
2) Do not take daytime naps, if you must, keep it less than 45 minutes and before 3 p.m.
3) Exercise regularly but do it before 6 hours of your bed time.
4) Avoid a big meal 3-4 hours before bedtime; if hungry eat a light snack.
5)Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
6)Avoid smoking in the evening.
7)Avoid alcohol in the evening. It may help you to fall asleep but will keep you awake after 3-4 hours.
8) If you stay awake with your mind racing with thoughts and worries, keep a pad and a pen by the bedside; write what's on your mind.
9) Create a ritual before going to sleep, such as a warm bath, brushing your teeth, applying lotion to your body, changing to your pajamas, reading, etc…
10) Block out all distracting noise, and eliminate as much light as possible.
11) Keep your room temperature cool and comfortable.
12) Choose a comfortable mattress.
13) Avoid watching TV or using the computer for the last hour before bedtime.
14) Do not work in your bedroom; do not discuss unpleasant issues in your bedroom.
15) Avoid any activity in bed other than sleep and sex.
16) If not able to sleep after 20-30 minutes in bed, get up, go to another room and read a boring book, go back to bed when sleepy. Do the same if you wake up in the middle of the night.
17) Be aware of physical and psychological factors that may affect your sleep such as chronic pains, acid reflux, headaches, hot flashes, restless leg, depression, anxiety, stress, etc… Discuss these issue with your primary care practitioner.   

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