Sleep disturbance in women is affected by natural events in most women’s lives. Menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause cause changes in the mind and body and can affect a woman’s sleeping patterns. Most women are able to adjust to the hormonal fluctuations that accompany these times but for some, insomnia becomes an additional problem which is a major cause of sleep disorders in women
Sleep may be disrupted for up to two weeks before menstruation. Other symptoms such as tenderness in the breasts, bloating, headaches, moodiness and difficulty concentrating can also affect sleep. Feeling bloated, anxious and sore it is hard getting comfortable and falling asleep. Many women also experience cravings for food and alcohol before their period, affecting blood sugar levels and contributing to their sleep problem.
Coffee, alcohol and stress all contribute to PMS and often leads to female insomnia. They also affect sleep making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Caffeinated drinks and sugary foods should be avoided and late night meals and alcohol restricted.
A balanced diet using low GI foods helps keep blood sugar levels stable. A multivitamin and mineral supplement can help ensure there are no deficiencies especially for women who skip meals, drink alcohol or smoke.
Studies have shown that vitamin B6 can help with symptoms such as mood changes, breast tenderness and acne. Magnesium supplements have proved successful in reducing the symptoms of bloating, headaches and breast tenderness. Calcium can be easily incorporated in most diets in the form of milk, leafy green vegetables or dairy products. Zinc has also shown benefits. It is advisable to seek individual advice from a nutritionist or GP.
There are a number of herbal remedies that are popular for treating PMS. Hormone balancing herbs such as chaste berry help regulate the menstrual cycle. Evening primrose oil may be helpful in reducing symptoms such as breast tenderness. There are a number of supplements that are formulated to target premenstrual symptoms. These are available without prescription and a pharmacist will be able to provide information on what is available.
Daytime exercise and learning how to relax are helpful in reducing symptoms. In severe cases, the combined oral contraceptive pill may be prescribed and this can help cure sleep disorders in women. Anti inflammatory pain killers can help with headaches and backache. If symptoms are severe and persistent a GP may prescribe a course of antidepressants or other drug therapy.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to be one of the best ways of reducing symptoms and combating mood disturbance. Exercise should be taken during the daytime or early evening. Exercising too near to bed time stimulates the mind and body. Gentle stretching and relaxation techniques are ideal ways to deal with physical tension and relax the mind before sleep.
Pregnancy is a very special time and it’s not surprising that many women find that their sleep changes. Many women feel tired and sleepy during the early months; find it increasingly difficult to sleep during the second trimester, and feel exhausted and desperate for sleep during the weeks before birth.
A growing body, hormonal changes, anxiety and other changes means that sleep is constantly adapting. Accepting that these changes are natural and relaxing is important in pregnancy and after. Learning how to relax is important throughout pregnancy. Napping and short rests can help make up for a restless night.
Learning new positions to sleep and relax can be useful as many women find it difficult to get comfortable in bed. Exercise such as yoga, walking and swimming are suitable for most women and help keep the mind and body fit and healthy.
Most women avoid alcohol, caffeine and too much sugar during pregnancy. Regular small meals are preferable to large ones especially before bedtime.
Light layers of bedding may help keep the body comfortable during the night, and extra pillows are a great support for a growing ‘bump’. A warm relaxing bath or a massage helps the body relax and is a lovely way to prepare for bed.
Anxiety is one of the main reasons for female insomnia and expectant mothers find it difficult to relax especially as the birth draws nearer. Learning how to relax helps prepare mother and baby for the birth and beyond.