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April 18, 2012 at 11:20 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

40% More Women Face Sleep Disorders Than Men

By Brad Plaggemars More Blogs by This Author

Michael J. Twery, Ph.D., Director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), claims that sleep disorders "affect all racial groups and genders."

Sleep disorders are no stranger to Americans. We know them well, and they affect more than 1 out of every 5 us. A fact unknown to most however, is that women are significantly more likely to experience sleep issues and 1.4 times more likely to experience insomnia specifically! A serious issue, because as Dr. Twery points out "[Sleep disorders] increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, mortality, hypertension, and obesity."

When we understand that sleep helps controls our memory filters and emotional responses, the toll sleep deprivation can take on one's health becomes clearer. A lack of sleep produces cognitive impairment, difficulty with focus, memory impairment, delayed visual reaction time, and impairmed motor functioning.

Why Women aren't Sleeping

Why is it that more women than men experience sleep disorders? A factor that weighs heavily on women's ability to sleep are hormones. An extreme example of this would be pregnancy.  Different levels of hormones during different trimesters have been shown to affect sleep patterns. And later on, Helene A. Emsellem, M.D., claims that "35-40 percent of menopausal women report sleep problems as well."

Fixing the Problem

Many people may think that trying sleeping pills such as Ambien could potentially help with sleep difficulty, however, drugs like Ambien have varying effects depending on gender. Ronald Farkas, M.D., Ph.D., clinical team leader, Division of Neurology Products at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says that it's "known that women clear zolpidem from the body more slowly than men." (This is why women are given a lower dose than men.)

So how do we REALLY solve the issue?

Emsellem suggests that both men and women should set aside 7-9 for sleep in order to keep high cognitive functioning and motor ability. She also proposes exercise, keeping a regular sleep schedule, and many other healthy habits to help fall and stay asleep. Beyond this however, considering the hormonal influence of sleep, it may be wise for women experiencing issues sleeping try a  birth control treatment which is known to balance hormone levels.


Photo Credit:

Amy Messere


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