Sleep Through the Decades
How sleep changes with age, once you're an adult.
Women, Men, and Sleep continued...
But for a woman, sleep patterns tend to be fairly stable until one of two things happen: She gets pregnant or she goes through menopause.
“Pregnant women see an increase in sleep problems in the first and last trimester. During the first trimester, sleep problems are caused by hormonal changes, and during the last trimester, the baby is larger and creates pressure on the diaphragm, which creates breathing problems,” Chokroverty says. “The baby also puts pressure on the bladder, so a pregnant woman needs to wake up during the night to urinate. Lower back pain and stress and anxiety during the last trimester also cause sleep disturbances.”
About 25% of pregnant women also have restless legs syndrome -- a disorder involving the urge to move the legs to stop unpleasant sensations like prickling or crawling.
And then there’s menopause.
“It truly is cruel,” Simpson says. "Women may have had no problems with sleep their whole lives, except they can’t get any because their children or their job are keeping them up. Then they get the kids raised and the job slows down, and their sleep patterns go absolutely haywire. During menopause, women’s rates of insomnia go through the roof, and their rates of sleep apnea become more or less equivalent to men.”
For these and other sleep disruptions, Simpson advocates trying alternative options before turning to medications.“Instead, start by treating sleep problems with things like breathing exercises, yoga, improving your sleep hygiene by creating a more restful environment in your bedroom, and cognitive and behavioral therapy,” Simpson says.