Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (who was not involved with the new study), tells us the study is really important for better understanding women’s health. He also tells us there are a few different things that might make women more likely to have sleep problems.
He tells us that estrogen and progestin may work to regulate sleep, though doctors aren’t totally sure how. But because these hormones fluctuate regularly throughout each month, it could be making sleep difficult for menstruating women. Pregnancy can also have a huge impact on how well women sleep: morning sickness can exhaust women and also bring about insomnia, Dasgupta tells us. Not to mention the fact that women are limited in the positions they can sleep in while pregnant.
Restless leg syndrome could also be a big cause here. Dr. Dasgupta says that both pregnancy and anemia (which disproportionately effects women over men) can cause restless leg syndrome, a common syndrome that can keep people up at night.
The good news for women who are struggling with these issues is that doctors will now have more insight for when they assess and treat female sleep patients. In the press release, the study’s authors said that knowing these major differences between women and men who have sleep problems means treatments can be tailored to fit the specific needs of patients.
In the meantime, Dasgupta says that to get better sleep, women should set a consistent bedtime, avoid screens when they’re in bed, and avoid alcohol and large meals before bedtime. It’s also always a good idea to consult with your doctor or even see a sleep specialist if you can’t seem to resolve things on your own.