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Why Women Have Insomnia More Frequently Than Men

Alvaro Castillo

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Research shows that after a woman has a baby she automatically develops a more acute sensitivity to the sounds a baby makes, enabling her to wake up quickly if she hears a disturbing noise such as a cough or a cry.

Unfortunately, even long after their children are grown and have moved away, women retain this heightened sensitivity to nighttime noise. Clinical studies have also shown that women who have never had children sleep better even in their 50s and 60s than women who had children.

Women with menopause may have a hard time sleeping as well because they sometimes have to contend with drenching nighttime sweats. The good news is that by the time women enter the post menopausal phase of life, men tend to catch up to them in terms of sleeplessness.

In fact, post menopausal women who don't have insomnia usually sleep longer and better than men of the same age who don't have insomnia.

Growing older with insomnia

As people age, both the quality and quantity of their sleep tend to deteriorate. Researchers aren't quite sure why, but suspects age-related changes in sleep phases and patterns may be to blame. They do know that the amount of time spent in light sleep increases as people get older.

The accumulation of various medical conditional may play a role, especially if they're associated with pain. An alternative explanation is that the biological sleep-wake control system centers become less effective through cell loss or transformation, just as an elderly person's memory and physical abilities decline.

One study, which unfortunately only used men as subjects, showed subjects lose 80% of their deepest, most restorative sleep as they age from 16 to 50. (Now you know why your grandfather wakes up at 5:30am)

Other studies have shown that after age 44, both REM sleep and the total number of hours of sleep decrease, while awakening during the night (usually to use the bathroom) increases. Yet another study indicate and overall weakening of the sleep-wake rhythm as people age.

Some sleep medications aren't appropriate for older adults because they increase daytime sleepiness and the risk for falls and fractures, especially for long acting drugs (which remains in the body and brain longer)

Even though a person takes the medicine at bedtime, the medicine may still be affecting the person the next morning or afternoon. If an older person who takes one of these medications needs to use the bathroom at night, their coordination may be impaired leading to a fall.

In addition, neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and some forms of dementia can cause sleep disruptions. Older people are also more likely to take a prescription or combination of them that may cause sleeplessness.

They also experience a higher incidence of depression and other emotional problems that may contribute to insomnia. Just because you're growing older, you don't have to live with poor sleep. Consult your doctor.

Many effective treatments are available that can help you get back to sleeping better and longer. According to a study published in 1999 in the journal Sleep, in 1995 the direct cost of insomnia to the US economy was $14 billion.

The cost includes for both prescriptions, visits to healthcare provider, and nursing home care to treat insomnia in elderly patients. In addition, insomnia also produces a number of indirect costs.

These result from lower economic output due to symptoms produced by insomnia that affect job performance, like increased absenteeism, impaired memory and concentration, decreased ability to complete daily tasks, and decreased problem-solving abilities.

Alvaro Castillo has been writing health articles for five years. One of his specializations has been on nighttime health, such as insomnia, as well as stress and headaches. To get the best out of your sleep, or if you want to get rid of stress check out his website at


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