Insomnia is a disorder where you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep often but wake up earlier than the desired time. It is becoming increasingly common as well.
Globally 30% of people suffer from insomnia, and according to some studies, in the USA alone, half of the population has experienced insomnia symptoms at some point, and 10% of those suffering from the issue in the long term.
It is also important to consider whether this disorder affects people differently, given their age, gender, and social status. Although understandably, poor people suffer more from insomnia than the middle class (exceptions included).
It’s not well understood how insomnia affects genders differently, so here are 14 causes of insomnia in females that men might not experience or experience differently.
1. Does Insomnia Affect Genders Differently?
Many studies and research have shown that women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. This is because women have a different biological cycle than men, but that’s not the end. Social, political, and economic changes and biased healthcare all affect why women are more prone to insomnia.
Not only higher causes of developing insomnia, but females also have the risk of having multiple symptoms, whereas men only tend to have one or two.
The extra capitalist burden on women to also be a caregiver also adds to the causes and the new ideas of a 50-50 lifestyle with a partner also favor men over women where women end up working more.
So it can be safely concluded that women have a higher risk of insomnia than men.
2. 14 Causes of Insomnia in Females
Women face socio-economic, political, and patriarchal issues daily besides menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, which causes insomnia in females. For example, due to the social responsibility of taking care of the family, women hardly have a routine of their own. Their lives revolve around others which leads to never-ending work.
As a result of this, they develop habits like depending on sleep medicine to be able to function which leads to insomnia.
2.1. Causes for Females Only
Besides the socio-economic differences, menstruation, menopause, peri-menopause, and pregnancy are used to justify oppression and differentiation. Although there are these differences, instead of understanding and accepting, it is often used to undermine women.
With a taboo sign labeled on these issues, which more than half of the global population goes through monthly, women have developed to suffer with these things silently to fit in society.
It looks like women go through these monthly interruptions without any issues, but there are many long-term consequences, including chronic insomnia.
2.1.1. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
Occurring right before the period, during the PMS phase, women get mood disorders, irritation, and anger.
During PMS, the changing hormones (estrogen and progesterone) leading to serotonin changes are experienced by almost all women, according to studies, although individual levels differ. Forbes also found that people who experience PMS are twice as likely to experience insomnia.
Not being able to sleep for 2-3 days or one or two months might be fine. Still, if you have trouble sleeping every PMS week, it might be difficult to change patterns every month. It will also hamper your day-to-day productivity leading to chronic insomnia disorder.
Symptoms of PMS and menstruation are the same, like mood swings and irritation. During menstruation, women experience chronic pains in the stomach, thighs, or entire body pain which are more extreme than during PMS week, and the bleeding also makes it uncomfortable to do anything.
Approximately 30% of people struggle with sleep during their period according to the US National Sleep Foundation and it can be very well accepted given the pain, mood swings, and uneasiness people go through during this phase.
With the pain and usage of menstrual products such as pads, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Heavy bleeding or being clean conscious, you might have to wake up multiple times in a night. Since it is not an option for a leave, you might end up not sleeping and stressing about the work the next day or any exam or presentation.
Besides these situational and habitual things, the estrogen and progesterone hormone changes affect the sleep cycle immensely, and you might develop insomnia-like symptoms. The US National Sleep Foundation survey has concluded that 25-33% of US women have sleep issues during menstruation.
During pregnancy, the periods stop but the hormonal changes don’t. From the first trimester only, you can experience changes, and most people find it worse in the third trimester.
In pregnancy, you can feel nauseous, wake up often in the night to use the washroom, have breathing problems, back, and normal leg pains, have anxiety, and experience acid reflux as well. All these issues disrupt sleep, and it happens so often that you might develop insomnia.
The National Center of Biotechnology Information concluded that 3 out of 4 people develop sleeping issues during pregnancy which can develop into insomnia.
The hormonal shifts don’t stop after that. The lifestyle after pregnancy can increase the level of sleep problems and you can develop chronic insomnia since you even have to take care of the baby (waking up in the middle of the night or constant chores with taking care of an infant and feeding the baby) and deal with physical and emotional effects such as postpartum depression and more.
Almost 60% of women develop insomnia in the postpartum period and almost everyone experiences sleeping issues if not chronic insomnia.
2.1.4. Peri-Menopause and Menopause
Peri-menopause is a transition period where people who menstruate start having fewer periods leading to its end, which is called menopause. Women aged 45 to 55, on average, go through this phase.
During perimenopause, you have less bleeding than usual and get spots. The menstrual cycle lessens. Some effects of peri-menopause include stomach aches or cramps, which are immense pain, unlike the regular pain you have during periods.
You can also have irritation, hot flashes, and sleep problems. In this phase, approximately 30 to 40% develop insomnia as it becomes difficult to continue with daily life while dealing with mood swings and pain with anxiety and depression as well.
Menopause, on the other hand, is called when periods completely stop. Most women are in their 50s at this point, and aging becomes a factor for less sleep, and the effects of peri-menopause might affect post-menopause as well.
Due to depression and anxiety disorders during peri-menopause, you might not develop insomnia then, but after menopause, it can haste and become chronic.
2.2. Causes for All Gender but Affect Women More
All the causes listed below are general, but they affect women more often than men. This is because of the social and cultural differences between the two genders that women are more prone to these issues and hence have more chances of developing insomnia.
For example, due to the responsibilities of maintaining a house and in some cases on top of a job, women have more stress, get on more medication with age, or due to reproductive need to take medicines that cause mental health issues.
Being tense about anything can lead to poor sleep. Covering the lack of it during the daytime can lead to routine changes and develop into insomnia.
Stress or worry can be of anything depending on people, such as schoolwork, an unfinished project or assignment, a big presentation, or work. It can also be because of any traumatic event that might have nothing to do with you.
Trauma can also be personal since it can be difficult to sleep in case you are going through a divorce or the loss of a close person. Although this happens to all genders, women are more likely to get stressed and worry about things than men due to many reasons, such as work overload (job with chores and maintaining a family together) and hormonal changes.
2.2.2. Mental Illness
According to The Guardian, women were found to be 40% more prone to develop mental health problems than men, such as depression and anxiety. The reason for this could be physical and biological changes with societal differences.
With such an illness, falling asleep or returning to sleep can be difficult if you wake up in the middle. You might even end up not resting at all, and that’s how it can go from a common habit to an issue like insomnia.
If you often travel or work where your shifts are often changed, and you have little to less movement, you are more likely to develop insomnia.
Women statistically work more than men, and with fewer chances of getting promoted, they even work longer and often are at the lower levels of the hierarchy, so their shifts often change as well. If you are in the same category, you might often have different routines and compromise on sleep, affecting your body and sleep.
Your inner circadian rhythms can be messed up if you travel over long distances frequently- and cause sleep issues. You might also have a lifestyle where you can’t often move, like a desk job. Make sure to exercise for 30 minutes to keep yourself active, and it also helps with sleep.
What we eat makes a big difference in our lives. If you are of the category that doesn’t eat much healthy food or is dehydrated, you are more likely to suffer from health issues.
Suppose you consume caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine more than average. In that case, it can lead to sleep difficulties as caffeine prevents sleep, and alcohol can also lead to dehydration, hangovers, and many other health problems. While it could help you fall asleep immediately, with time and quantity, it reduces sleep quality.
Women consume more caffeine and alcohol than men, statistically making them more vulnerable to insomnia. Apart from this, you should also avoid eating too much right before bedtime as it causes heartburn or backflow of acid and affects sleep.
You can try reducing dependence on these substances and more on consuming healthy natural foods that help your health and improve your sleep cycle.
2.2.5. Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where breathing stops and starts repeatedly, are one of the leading causes of insomnia. Approx 50% of women suffer from this.
OSA leads to irregular breathing, disturbed sleep, and issues such as depression and limits productivity. Some symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, gasping, and snorting. In comparison, men are more likely to develop OSA but are hardly referred to specialized sleep clinics, which shows gender bias in healthcare.
Another common sleep disorder is- Parasomnia, which means you have an unusual or undesirable physical experience that affects sleep, such as having a nightmare. It affects women more than men and causes sleep disruptions. With time it can manifest itself in insomnia.
2.2.6. Restless Leg Syndrome
RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition where you have a strong urge to move limbs, legs specifically here, when in resting mode. It is present in more women than men and is one of the leading causes of sleep disturbance. The risk of developing RLS is higher if you are pregnant, which adds to the difference that how same issues are more likely to affect women and cause bigger harm than in men.
It is a disorder where there’s musculoskeletal pain that causes fatigue, memory loss, mood swings, and sleeping difficulties. Fibromyalgia messes with the brain waves and the chances of having quality sleep become less.
Women are more prone to this for many reasons especially hormonal changes due to menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.
2.2.8. Urinary Problems
Problems such as urinary incontinence make it impossible to stay asleep. In this condition, the bladder loses control, and the urge to urinate can lead to embarrassing problems such as leakage due to coughing or sneezing. Women are twice as likely to develop this due to reproductive issues such as pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and even menstruation.
Insomnia can also happen as a side-effect if you’re on any medication or prescribed drugs such as antidepressants or suffering from asthma. Apart from these, many over-the-counter medicines disrupt sleep patterns, such as medicines for pain, allergies, colds, or even headaches.
They may not have side effects immediately, but they can also harm your health by depending on sleep medicine for a long time. So it’s better to try sleeping naturally.
2.2.10. Old Age
With age, apart from menopause, some other factors affect women unfairly over men. With age, there is less chance of having a proper routine, so you might sleep time due to boredom or lack of energy which affects the natural sleep cycle.
With time, you also might develop mental illnesses due to life changes, the loss of a close one, or stress due to the uncertainty of life, making you prone to insomnia. Other causes of why you might develop insomnia in old age include being more on medications or having no help to depend upon.
3. Symptoms and Preventions for Insomnia
The common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Trouble staying asleep.
- Feeling tired after waking up.
- Lack of focus.
- Being tired yet unable to rest.
Given today’s lifestyle and the increasing oppression of women, the risk of insomnia is greater, and it’s important to know how to prevent its early stages since it is a common issue and can be cured with a little effort.
3.2.1. Eat Healthily
Try to eat healthily and exercise more.
3.2.2. Sleep at One Time
If possible, sleep at one time and wake up at one, even on festivals or weekends, as it helps your body put you in rest mode as default.
3.2.3. Avoid Alcohol and Other Substances
Limit alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine slowly, especially before bedtime.
3.2.4. Avoid Phones at Night
One of the most underrated methods to get a good sleep is to not use screens right before bed as it can harm your skin, health, eyes, and even sleep.
3.2.5. Try Relaxing
You can try relaxation techniques, such as reading a physical book or meditating for deep sleep.
3.2.6. Take Less Sleeping Pills
Limit dependence on sleep medicines as insomnia can be a side-effect of them. Although medicines are artificial boosters, a natural lifestyle promotes sound sleep.
If none of the above methods helps, you can try therapy such as CBT-I or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia. It helps change patterns that lead to insomnia, especially due to periods, menopause, and pregnancy.
Sleep is an integral part of our lives, and any coping mechanism to compensate for lack of sleep is not as effective as getting a good night’s sleep.
It gives our body rest, including the brain, and helps us to function better with more productivity and focus. Unlike depending on the healthcare system, which might disappoint anyway, it’s better to be cautious and prevent the symptoms.
5. Frequently Asked Questions
5.1. What hormone causes a lack of sleep?
A hormone named Cortisol may cause a lack of sleep. Cortisol causes you to wake up or stay awake. It can be elevated at the time of sleep because of stress or excessive use of mobile devices at night.
5.2. What affects us to sleep in our body?
At the time we go to sleep, a hormone named melatonin is released causing us to sleep.
5.3. How do you fall asleep with restless legs?
There are various tips to be followed to help get sleep. For example, avoid caffeine and alcohol, stretch your legs regularly, take a hot bath and relax your muscles before sleep, practice meditation and yoga to get help with symptoms, follow a daily walking routine, and more.
5.4. Why can’t I fall asleep on my period?
Menstruation causes hormonal changes which may harm sleep affected by body temperature, anxiety, and melatonin production.
5.5. How to sleep if with a stressful lifestyle?
Increasing the source of melatonin can help with sleep. Consume food that contains melatonin, for example, warm milk, rice, fish, chamomile tea, corn, oats, mushrooms, and more.