Women today have more to do than ever before, juggling family, career, education, social, and community responsibilities.  The only time they have to relax is when their head hits the pillow.  You'd think with all the work they put into their day, sleep would come easily.  Unfortunately, for many, that's when the tossing and turning begins.  Research shows this is a bigger problem for women than men.  Why?

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), nearly 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. They affect more women than men, however due to a variety of factors.   While seven to nine hours is recommended to promote health, the NSF's Women and Sleep Poll found that the average woman between the ages of 30 and 60 sleeps only six hours and forty-one minutes during the work week.

Physical and health issues are to blame for many women's struggle to sleep.  Fluctuating hormone levels with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause; pain issues including migraine, arthritis, and heartburn; and sleep apnea are all contributing factors to insomnia that affect women exclusively or more than men.  While sleep apnea is considered more of a "guy thing," women over 50, especially if they gain weight after menopause, comprise a large percentage of sufferers.

It also appears that social and psychological factors are responsible. Research conducted at the University of Cincinnati studied how social issues of work and family obligations in association with gender inequality trigger insomnia.  Their research shows that the way men and women use time is far from equal in most relationships--and women carry more of the workload. It's what women do during their waking hours that ruins their sleep.

The researchers said 17 percent off the gender gap in sleep disruption can be attributed to more women than men experiencing conflict in balancing work demands with family responsibilities. Being a parent accounts for another 5 percent.   Sleep problems got worse when women were concerned about their marriages, worked nonstandard schedules (like the night shift), or when their work life leaked into their home life and when family life affected their jobs. Men's sleep cycles were also affected by work/family balance issues, but not as significantly as women.

What's a woman to do?  Getting enough good quality sleep is vital to being the best you can be at work and home.

  • Write down physical issues affecting your sleep.
  • Talk to your doctor about hormonal, pain and weight factors.
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Explore stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. This includes only using your bedroom for sex and sleep, never watching TV in bed, and turning it off an hour or more before bedtime.
  • Make your next-day "to do" list the night before to clear your mind of excess worry.
  • Start a journal and put stressors on paper instead of on your pillow.
  • If you're still restless, ask your doctor about medication options.