Doctor's Notes on Sleep Disorders in Women
Women are twice as likely as men to have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. Changes in hormonal levels, stress, illness, lifestyle, pregnancy, and the sleep environment may impact a woman’s sleep. Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in women. This includes trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or early awakening, and inability to resume sleep. Other common sleep disorders in women include sleep-disordered breathing, restless legs syndrome (RLS), periodic limb movement disorder, and narcolepsy.
The most common symptoms of sleep disorders in women include
- difficulty falling asleep,
- difficulty staying asleep,
- disrupted sleep,
- early awakening, and
- excessive daytime sleepiness.
Other symptoms of sleep disorders in women include
- hot flashes/night sweats,
- obstructive sleep apnea (breathing cessation during sleep),
- calf discomfort and restlessness in the legs that is relieved by movement, and
Symptoms of the sleep disorder narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks.
What Is the Treatment for Sleep Disorders in Women?
Treatment of sleep disorders in women depends on the type of disorder and the cause. Talk with your doctor and seek a sleep medicine specialist to help determine your treatment.
Home treatments for common sleep disorders include:
- Limit caffeine intake before bedtime
- Do not drink alcohol excessively
- Make your sleep space only for sleeping
- Keep your room dark and cool
- Stop using electronics with screens in bed or just before bedtime
Medication and behavioral treatments for sleep disorders for women may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)
- Sleep restriction or sleep compression therapy
- Sleep hygiene education
- Relaxation exercises
- Sleep medications, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription
- Short- and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines (e.g., triazolam, temazepam, estazolam)
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Zaleplon (Sonata)
- Ramelteon (Rozerem)
- Sedating antidepressants
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Doxepin (Silenor)
- Mirtazapine (Remeron)
Women who believe they have sleep apnea should consult a doctor. A number of effective treatment options are available, including CPAP therapy.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.