Why women suffer from insomnia more often than men

Why women suffer from insomnia more often than men

Unsatisfying sleep can be a really big problem for women.

We’re twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia.

This is true AND we don’t have to be stuck with it. Sleep isn’t a lost cause.

First, three good reasons why women are more at risk:

  1. Shifting hormones
  2. Societal expectations/pressure
  3. Mood disorders

Your hormones fluctuate monthly from early teenage-hood until menopause. Pregnancy and postpartum recovery cause hormonal roller coasters that impact mood, sleep and many other physical symptoms. And peri-menopause kicks off several more years of hormonal mayhem.

It’s really no wonder so many women struggle with sleep.

Societal and internalized pressure to perform at a high level at work, then come home and look after your home and family is both mentally and physically draining. While some of us are fortunate to have partners who contribute equally, that’s still not the case for a lot of women with male partners.

And it’s not even as simple as saying all women struggle more. Black women, Indigenous women and other women of colour are much more likely to experience racism, discrimination and violence. The lasting stress response that results makes sleep much more challenging.

Women are also more likely to suffer from mood disorders like anxiety and depression which can cause sleep disturbance. To add insult to injury, long term sleep loss can also lead to anxiety and depression, making this a vicious circle.

So, what can we do about this?

Well, while all of these precipitating factors can lead to acute insomnia (sleeplessness that doesn’t last), not all cause chronic insomnia.

The 3 P's of insomnia

In my coaching program, we talk about Dr. A.J. Spielman’s 3P’s model which explains predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors for insomnia.

Predisposing factors are things like your genetics and your family history – things you can’t control that make it more likely you’ll suffer from sleep disturbance. These rarely lead to chronic insomnia on their own.

Your shifting hormones as a female would go in this category. They exist, they’re real, they have a significant impact on your mood and physical comfort level. But they don’t always cause chronic insomnia.

Precipitating factors are events that happen to us or around us. Like a big move, a death in the family, divorce, and physical or mental trauma. They can even be positive things like getting married or having a baby.

You might have a hard time sleeping when you experience one of these events and have acute insomnia for a short time while you adjust to a new lifestyle, deal with the trauma of an injury or recover from an illness.

Perpetuating factors are the habits you create to manage acute insomnia that lead to it becoming chronic (difficulty sleeping at least 3 times per week for 3 months or more).

Why do you need to know the difference?

Well, if you focus only on predisposing factors, you’ll assume there’s no hope for your sleep. But genetics play a very small role in chronic insomnia. It’s not like having blue eyes that will never change to brown, no matter how hard you try.

You can learn to sleep better. Your female hormones don’t mean you’re destined to be a chronic insomniac.

Lots of female humans sleep just fine.

You also can’t fully blame precipitating factors for your chronic insomnia. Those events might have led to a few nights or weeks of poor sleep, but the habits you created to try to deal with those events caused your chronic insomnia.

Hot flashes are a good example: without question, a hot flash that feels like the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns can wake you up! You sweat, then you’re freezing cold because your PJ’s are soaked, and you’re totally uncomfortable.

But unless the hot flash lasted all night (and they typically don’t), all it did was wake you up – it didn’t keep you awake. Your thoughts and worries about being woken in the night did that. And those you can change.

And this leads perfectly to what I mean by perpetuating factors. Worrying thoughts, a racing mind, defeatism, victim mentality, believing it should be different…all of these will make acute insomnia worse, and will probably lead to chronic insomnia if left unchecked.

You don't have to suffer silently with insomnia

My program is specifically designed to help women like you, especially if you’re a mom, recognize which of your thoughts and habits aren’t serving you.

Over 8 weeks together you learn many new tools and strategies to replace those old, worn out habits. And I coach you on all the ways your brain will try to protect them and keep them alive so you can get past your insomnia.

I still have the odd night of poor sleep because I’m a human and sometimes we don’t sleep well.

But I no longer succumb to my thought drama about sleeping poorly. And so any acute insomnia that comes doesn’t last. 

I help you recognize your precipitating factors so you can prepare for possible sleep disruptions when they come, and manage through them without putting new perpetuating habits in place.

When you’re ready to do the work, the work will help you.

Reach out and book your free 30-minute sleep assessment. You’ll be so glad you did.

 

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