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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.

Could You Have a Sleep Disorder? continued...

Snoring. Another nighttime issue: snoring, yours or his.

"We know snoring is symptomatic to apnea," says Rosekind. "A woman wakes up to breathe and she is gasping for air, and it comes out as a snore." If your snoring wakes you, that's a clue there's a problem, but in many cases you won't have a clue what's going on unless a partner tells you.

Snoring can also cause sleep problems even if you're not the one doing it. "Snoring can be a problem when it's the spouse who has the issue," says Rosekind. "The audible noise plays a role in keeping her up at night."

In either case, talk to your doctor -- there are a number of new stop-snoring remedies that can help.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS). Among the sleep disorders garnering more attention these days is a frequently undiagnosed neurological disorder known as restless legs syndrome (RLS).With RLS, you may experienceunpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them to relieve the feelings, according to the NSF. Lying down and trying to relax makes the feelings worse, making it hard to fall and stay asleep.

"And the more frequent the episodes, the more likely a woman is to experience insomnia, daytime sleepiness, consume caffeine, and use sleep aids," says Rosekind.

If your sleep problems persist despite your best efforts -- if you are consistently tired during the day, you are snoring, your partner says you are moving a lot at night -- it's time to talk to your doctor, and maybe think about seeing a sleep specialist as well.

"Go see a sleep disorder center accredited by the American Sleep Medicine Association for an evaluation," says Mass. "Your sleep is well worth it."

The Sleep Solution

Fortunately, getting a good night's rest usually requires simply paying better attention to a few key factors. First and foremost: Make sleep a priority.

"You need to value your sleep," says Maas. "The biggest mistake women make is to put sleep last. By making sleep a priority, you can be a more effective mom, wife and career-woman."

What can also help: Making a few changes to your nighttime routines. Mass offers these suggestions:

  • Stress -- physical and mental -- is a major cause of insomnia. If something is bothering you, try to deal with it during the day, so it doesn't keep you up at night worrying.
  • Avoid alcohol after 6 p.m. at night and caffeine after 2 p.m. Both can keep you awake nights.
  • Keep your bedroom cool rather than warm, dim rather than bright, and dry rather than humid for optimum sleeping conditions.
  • Make certain your bed is adequately sized for you and your partner, and that it offers proper support so you feel comfortable and relaxed while sleeping.
  • Take some time choosing a pillow that really feels good. A pillow that's too soft or too hard can cause sleep problems.
  • Don't bring your work or your laptop into bed at night. Instead, look to do something that helps your mind unwind -- like reading or listening to relaxing music.

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Reviewed on November 19, 2008

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