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Sleep Problems? Estrogen Might Not Help

Stress Could Be a Factor

Indeed, the aging body does work less efficiently. These changes affect blood flow, lung function -- even sleep, says Wissam Chatila, MD, a sleep disorders specialist and professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He agreed to comment on Lukacs' study.

"There's no reason sleep should be any different," Chatila tells WebMD. "But I'm not 100 percent convinced that estrogen decline doesn't play a role in sleep quality. Estrogen therapy has made a difference for many women."

Everyday life stressors may also play a role, he says. "It may be that older women have more of this than younger women. Also, what was the women's sleep quality on the nights before? You don't really know unless it's carefully monitored. We often find that people overestimate the amount of sleep they get."

He advises insomniacs to:

  • Set a regular sleep schedule.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon and evening.

  • Avoid heavy, spicy meals.

  • Don't exercise late in the day.

  • Don't use a radio or television in the bedroom.

  • Use a white-noise machine to keep the bedroom peaceful and quiet.

  • Wear lightweight, comfortable sleepwear.

  • Make sure your mattress is comfortable.

  • Carefully regulate the temperature.

  • Don't take over-the-counter sleep medications regularly.

"Prescription medications have their role," Chatila tells WebMD. "But they need to be taken under medical supervision, and are only given for specific circumstances - when there are medical or psychiatric problems, like pain or anxiety.

"For many people, sleep problems are a symptom of an underlying disorder," he adds. "The approach should be to diagnose that problem and treat it, that rather than treating the symptom of insomnia."

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