Insomnia is one of the most common of the numerous sleep conditions adults suffer from at some point in their lives. It is characterised by the inability to fall asleep, having frequently disturbed sleep, or the inability to go back to sleep once awake. However, there’s a fine line between regular sleep disturbances and chronic sleeplessness.
Research indicates that women are more prone to suffer from insomnia than men owing to a number of physiological and psychological changes that occur in their lifetime. Women also tend to overwork themselves in trying to keep up with socially dictated domestic responsibilities which almost always exclude self-care.
Lack of sleep can adversely affect women’s health, both mentally and physically, and cause ‘narcolepsy’ or daytime lethargy. The brain processes a large amount of information throughout the day and one needs undisturbed sleep for at least 7-8 hours for a complete recharge. Any interference with these hours of sleep on a regular basis can lead to issues like lack of focus, being prone to sickness, and weight gain.
Some Causes of Insomnia in Women
Hormonal Activity: Throughout her life, a woman undergoes hormonal changes – be it during puberty, her menstrual years, or perimenopause. Sleep can be erratic in pregnant women as well. These changing hormones are linked to many physiological functions including the circadian rhythm.
Stress, Anxiety, and Other Mental Health Disorders: Women are indeed more prone to anxiety, stress, and mood disorders. While this can partly be attributed to hormonal activity, societal pressures at each phase of life contribute to much of the stress and anxiety.
Lifestyle Habits: Working women who also have an asymmetric share of domestic responsibilities at home are more likely to have erratic lifestyles, thereby erasing any semblance of a normal circadian rhythm. This also causes more stress on the mind and body which in turn affects sleep.
Caffeine Intake: Multiple cups of coffee might seem harmless but caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours, which is the time it takes for the drug to leave your body, so the more the cups of coffee, the longer it takes for caffeine to leave your system. Not only does caffeine reduce the total sleep time, it also affects the quality of sleep, reducing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep.
Here’s What to Do If You Have Insomnia:
Firstly, to confirm whether or not you have insomnia, watch how you feel through the day, for a few weeks. Make note of frequently occurring symptoms like inability to focus on work, heartburn or acidity, lethargy, difficulty in breathing, or increased restlessness. If these persist, then it’s time for you to see the doctor.
Home Remedies to Get Good Sleep
Avoid Using Your Bedroom As your Workplace: This is the most common mistake made by most women and the pandemic’s work-from-home-situation has only enabled it. If you have more space in your house, then ensure that the bedroom is reserved only for unwinding and sleeping. Even the dining area can be improvised as a work space but strictly no working in the bedroom.
Practise Yoga and Meditation: Physical activity through the day tires you out and regulates blood flow to the brain which may help you sleep better. Yoga and meditation are proven to benefit your physical and mental health. However, if you have existing physical ailments, you must consult your physician before you begin any exercise routine.
Dim the Lights and Listen to Soothing Music: Switching off lights and blocking external light by drawing darker curtains may help induce good sleep through the night. Listening to soothing music may also help those suffering from insomnia.
Put the Devices Away: Blue light emitting from your electronic devices can be extremely harmful for your health. Not only can it cause insomnia but excessive exposure to blue light can even cause long-term ailments like heart problems, obesity, diabetes, and even cancer. Keep your phones or tablets away and unwind for a while before you fall asleep.
Get A Massage or Give Yourself One: Research indicates that massaging your pressure points can help induce deep sleep at night. Techniques like acupuncture can also come in handy to help you sleep better. But to be safe from complications, always check with your general practitioner if you have any ailments, before indulging in massages.
Get Fresh Air: If you have access to an open space like a terrace or a park, make time to go for a walk, preferably early in the morning when the air is relatively cleaner. Also, try to keep your bedroom windows open as good ventilation has been found to help with better sleep.
Cut Caffeine and Other Drugs: Drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol cause immense harm to your body and disrupt your hormonal activity which almost invariably causes sleep disorders. It’s best to avoid consuming coffee and alcohol at night.
Sleep is the most fundamental requirement for the human body, especially in this fast-paced world. Lack of sleep or chronic insomnia can lead to several grave long-term health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, stroke and may also make older women prone to accidents or falls. Hence, it is highly essential for women to take care of themselves and get regular restful sleep.
(Edited by Varsha Roysam)