Sleep disturbances in women

Most adults need six to nine hours of sleep each night. Some women experience insomnia around menopause, especially if hormone changes provoke hot flashes during the night. Sleep is adequate when one can function in an alert state during desired waking hours. The bedroom should be used only for sleep. Those who do not fall asleep within twenty minutes should get up, leave the bedroom to engage in relaxing activities elsewhere, and return to bed when drowsy. A regular sleep schedule is important. Choose a consistent time to get up, regardless of bedtime, even on weekends.

Managing sleep changes:

  • keep your bedroom cool and dark
  • use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night
  • dress in light cotton nightclothes
  • cool down with an electric fan or air conditioner
  • keep a frozen cold pack under the pillow, and turn the pillow often so that the head is always resting on a cool surface
  • keep cool water at the beside to sip when awakening during the night

Treatment of sleep disturbances should first focus on improving sleep routine with good sleep hygiene. This includes avoiding heavy meals in the evening and adjusting levels of light, noise, and temperature in the bedroom. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine throughout the entire day, not just during the evening, can help increase sleep efficiency and total sleep time. Daily exercising can also help ease insomnia, but exercising close to bedtime may have the opposite effect. When lifestyle changes fail to alleviate sleep disturbances, a clinician should be consulted to discuss other options and to rule out sleep disorders, such as thyroid abnormalities, allergies, anemia, restless leg, depression, or sleep apnea (breathing problems).

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