You may have heard that women experience sleep in different ways than men. Consequently, women who struggle with diverse sleep issues also react differently to sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and sleep deficiencies and suffer from various health effects due to inadequate sleep. In fact, from childhood to menopause, and even after that, women face changes in their sleep schedules. This might often call for special care.
Some of the disparities in sleep patterns between men and women can be attributed to biological factors. As a general rule, women are more likely to take longer to fall asleep and to spend more time in deep sleep than males.
Most women know hormones are primarily to blame for the physical and psychological changes they undergo during pregnancy and menopause. These hormonal changes also bring about changes in their sleep habits. Hormones are chemical transmitters that move throughout our systems, influencing things like mood, appetite, sexual function, growth and development, and sleep.
However, these are all vague generalizations, and the question remains – exactly how does a woman’s sleep cycle change throughout her life? Let’s explore how hormones may impact her sleep quality, duration, and daytime sleepiness or alertness. We will also discuss how, despite women’s hormones acting against them, they can get a better night’s sleep.
How the Sleep Cycle Changes During Teenage Years
Teenagers are so full of life, ambition, and yes, sleep. According to research, most teenagers do not sleep as much as they should. On average, teenagers need nine hours of sleep daily to feel relaxed and alert. We all know that doesn’t happen.
Your body begins to undergo various changes during puberty. The way you sleep is also one of the bodily changes associated with puberty. Adolescence changes circadian rhythms. How? Well, your body makes you drowsy around 8:00 or 9:00 pm before puberty. But after puberty, this rhythm changes – your body now tells you to go to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 pm. This phenomenon is called sleep phase delay.
Sleep phase delay refers to the normal circadian rhythm change experienced by teenagers where sleepiness is postponed for around two hours. Teenagers must go to bed on time because they typically have to get up early for school. They won’t be able to obtain the rest they require if they stay up late. But you now see why they can’t?
So teenagers can stay awake longer as their brains develop during puberty. However, male and female teenagers exhibit different patterns. When it comes to getting the necessary amount of sleep, female high school students fall short compared to their male counterparts.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Sleep?
After the delivery, sleep deprivation for a new mother is inevitable, which can also oftentimes lead to insomnia. It is a medical event in which women face chronic trouble falling or staying asleep – it happens more than three evenings a week.
For women who have recently had a baby, their estrogen and progesterone levels decline rapidly. Your natural sleep-wake cycle is affected by these hormones. When this cycle is thrown off balance, you may find that you are more awake at night.
You should, however, seek professional assistance if you have major trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Postpartum depression can be reduced by addressing sleep issues as soon as possible.
That said, it does not mean that you face sleep problems only after the baby is born. Even before birth, and especially in the first trimester of pregnancy, sleep issues are common.
During the first trimester of their pregnancies, women typically sleep more (hello, early bedtime), but the quality of their sleep drastically declines. While pregnancy leaves them feeling worn out, it also keeps them up at night.
When levels of the hormone progesterone rise during the first trimester, it affects sleep patterns. This is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, but it can also make you feel exhausted and warm. Also, you may notice a shift in your circadian rhythm, demanding an earlier bedtime.
Some other sleep problems you might face during pregnancy are:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Restless Legs Syndrome
- Increased Nighttime Urination
- Nasal Congestion
- General Discomfort
How Does Menopause Affect Sleep?
Our mothers and grandmothers called it the “change of life” since it marked the unofficial beginning of middle age and the dreaded time of hot flashes and mood swings. A lot of women prepare for those uncomfortable symptoms during menopause. But excessive sweating and weight gain are not the only issues they face – many women don’t sleep properly.
A woman experiences menopause when her ovaries stop releasing estrogen and progesterone– the reproductive hormones. These hormones play a role in physiological functions that impact mood, appetite, sleep, sex drive, and other aspects of health.
Serotonin and other chemicals that impact our sleep-wake cycle are metabolized by estrogen. Additionally, estrogen lowers our body temperature at night, which promotes sound sleep. Estrogen also has antidepressant properties. So if the body has stopped releasing estrogen, that means all of these things would be impacted. It may lead to increased body temperatures, poor sleep quality, and negative moods.
Perimenopause is another stage when women experience trouble sleeping – the time before menopause when your hormone levels and menstrual cycles change. Among the issues that women may have during menopause are:
Hot flashes brought on by menopause are frequently accompanied by insomnia. Sometimes, hot flashes or night sweats during menopause can make it hard to sleep and lead to insomnia. These symptoms can make it hard to fall asleep or also wake you up frequently.
- Depressive and anxious feelings may also lead to inadequate sleep during menopause.
- Other sleep issues, such as periodic limb movement disorder and restless legs syndrome, can appear during menopause. Involuntary leg movements can lead to uncomfortable sensations and sleep disruption.
- Women can also experience various other sleep difficulties at this time, including sleep apnea, which may result from a decrease in estrogen and progesterone.
Tips for Sleeping Better During Pregnancy and Menopause
These two important phases of your life don’t have to be so difficult. Sleep is important, no matter what stage of life you are at, and here are some tips that can help you do just that:
- Move Your Body Daily: Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes; unless, your doctor recommends against it. Exercise releases stored energy from your muscles, thereby improving blood flow, elevating mood, and helping you sleep. But avoid working out vigorously too close to bedtime. If you must, try light workouts like yoga.
- Relax and Unwind Before Bed: Yoga, breathing exercises, mindfulness relaxation techniques, and even a warm bath can help you relax and control the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, leading to anxiety, irritability, and sleep issues. Keep your bed a no-work area and use it only to catch up on some sleep.
- Avoid Eating Late at Night: This can be challenging because, while satiety-inducing hormones tend to decline over the evening, hunger hormones tend to rise at night. However, eating after midnight might impair your sleep and increase your chance of acquiring diabetes and obesity.
- Stay Away From Gadgets: Using screens late at night can make it more difficult to fall asleep because the light from laptops and cell phones can also suppress the melatonin hormone, which controls your sleep. If you must use your phone right before bed, make sure to switch to the night mode, which dims the light and changes the color of the screen.
- Create a Bedtime Routine: On weekdays and weekends, make an effort to maintain a regular sleep routine. Going to bed at roughly the same time every night and limiting weekend sleep to no more than an hour will help you get better quality sleep since your body loves regularity. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at the right temperature for sleep. When you go to bed, try utilizing a white noise machine or app, shutting off the lights and any screens, and ensuring that your room isn’t too hot or chilly.
Adolescence, Pregnancy, and Menopause
The health of a woman’s immune system, physical and mental well-being, and general welfare may all depend on how much sleep she gets. While hormones might contribute to sleep issues, managing stress and other lifestyle factors is the best strategy to improve sleep. To find out which of the many sleeping patterns described above suits you, try them out.
It might be time to contact a sleep expert if you continue to have persistent insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. These doctors can assist you in identifying the source of the issue and figuring out a healthy method to enhance your sleep.
However, if your insomnia is triggered due to other reasons, maybe a snoring partner, it might be a wise decision to invest in a smart snoring solution. Smart Nora is an anti-snoring device that adjusts the position of the pillow as soon as it detects any snoring sounds, letting you have a good night’s sleep.