It can be difficult realizing what you have until it’s gone, and the same can be said for a good night’s sleep. Particularly for women, there can be changes through the years that can interfere with a healthy night of sleep and make you long for the Zzzs you used to get.
How Does Women’s Sleep Change Through the Years?
Sleep changes as we age. Particularly, as we get older we tend to wake up more often and get up for the day earlier in the morning. Changes in sleep can be caused by a myriad of things and the list grows as we get older. In addition to biological changes associated with aging, we may be dedicating less time to proper sleep hygiene, facing more challenging health conditions, or making lifestyle changes without considering how they may affect our sleep.
Aside from the general sleep difficulties that come with age, many women experience biological changes in life that can have a considerable impact on sleep. These events are often related to changes in hormone levels, but other factors are involved too.
Biological changes that occur during puberty can have a significant impact on sleep, but so do new habits and behaviors at this age. The demands of school, activities, peers, and technology all can affect the sleep of developing teenagers. In addition, many girls and women report trouble sleeping related to the timing of their menstrual cycles. Progesterone increases are linked to increases in body temperature and fatigue, which can explain feelings of exhaustion coupled with difficulty sleeping during the days leading up to menstruation. A drop in body temperature signals that it’s time to sleep. If hormones are keeping you feeling warmer than normal, it can be harder to drift off to sleep.
If you have a baby on the way, you may have concerns about sleep because it becomes even more important for you and your child’s health while also becoming more difficult to obtain. Hormonal changes can cause you to feel sleepier sooner in the day and more often. This in tandem with common complaints such as more trips to the restroom, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, leg cramps, and snoring, all of which can make for a difficult time getting a sound night of sleep. Focusing on good sleep hygiene is invaluable during this time; see our recommendations specifically for expectant parents for more sleep tips.
Perimenopause is a time when a woman’s menstrual cycle changes over the course of several years and eventually menstrual periods end. As with puberty, menopause is characterized by changes in hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. Some common issues associated with this phase of life are hot flashes, changes in mood, and weight gain. In addition, many women experience sleep disturbances during menopause. This can be caused by hot flashes or in some cases due to the development of sleep apnea. Talk with your doctor if hot flashes or sleep apnea are interfering with your sleep.
What can women do to sleep better through the years?
First and foremost, we recommend keeping sleep near the top of your health priority list. Recognizing when you’re experiencing bodily, environmental, or general life changes and optimizing your sleep hygiene is critical. We often let sleep fall secondary to life events and other health behaviors like diet and exercise, but the benefits to maintaining your sleep can be just what you need to boost your overall health. Individual sleep experiences, routines, and approaches to sleep hygiene can vary; however, following recommended advice such as keeping a consistent sleep schedule that allows for 7-8 hours per night, creating a comfortable bedroom environment, being physically active, and appropriate intake of blue light are great places to start.