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The Secret Causes of Insomnia: What Every Woman Should Know About Sleep Problems

A hectic lifestyle isn't the only thing keeping women up at night. Here are some key causes of sleep problems in women.

Sleep Problems and Your Hormones

If you're like many women, it may not be your lifestyle that's sabotaging your sleep but your own body -- primarily, your hormones. It all begins, say experts, with your monthly menstrual cycle.

"More than 70% of women complain of sleep problems during menstruation, when hormone levels are at their lowest," says Amy Wolfson, PhD, author of TheWoman's Book of Sleep: A Complete Resource Guide.

Indeed, experts say that not only does your period affect sleep quality, any menstrual symptoms you may experience can also keep you up at night. In fact, research reveals that menstruating women often report bloating significant enough to disturb their sleep at least two or three days during each menstrual cycle, according to the NSF.

If this rings true for you, talk to your gynecologist. There are treatments that can help some of your menstrual-related symptoms, which in turn may help solve these sleep problems.

Be aware, however, that as you enter perimenopause and eventually menopause, hormonal changes are back in the picture, disrupting your bedtime yet again.

Generally, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep, with more than half reporting insomnia symptoms," says Wolfson, who is a spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council.

The oft-cited causes of sleep problems include hot flashes, mood disorders and sleep-disordered breathing like snoring, all common and sometimes severe even in post-menopausal women.

Again, talk to your doctor about symptom relief that can do double duty by also helping you sleep better.

Could You Have a Sleep Disorder?

You do all the right things -- relax before going to sleep, and get to bed on time -- but somehow you still can't get a decent night's rest. When this is the case, a sleep disorder could be at the root of your sleep problems.

Sleep apnea. "There are 88 known sleep disorders," says James Maas, MD. "From apnea to restless leg syndrome, these are one of the major reasons why people lose sleep."

Among the most frustrating of these problems is sleep apnea.

"Sleep apnea is a pause in breathing during sleeping," says Rosekind. "The interruption to sleep occurs because the body has to wake itself up again in order to get the oxygen it needs." The longer the pauses in breathing and the more often they occur, the less sleep a woman gets.

"In some cases, apnea can occur five or 10 times a night," says Rosekind. "In other cases, it could be hundreds. Studies suggest that apnea is more prevalent in men than in woman, but the NSF survey leads us to believe that apnea could be much higher in women than we realize."

What's key here, however, is that most of the time you won't be aware of the momentary wake-ups -- so you end up feeling tired, and you don't know why.

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