Sleep in women

Sleep disturbances unique to adult women are those which are associated with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause.

Because of the monthly variation of the female reproductive hormones, particularly the ovarian hormones progesterone and oestrogen, women of reproductive age report more sleep disturbances during the premenstrual week and the first few days of menstruation than at other times. These disorders can include both hypersomnia and a premenstrual night or two of insomnia. Dreams can also be more vivid.

Pregnant women tend to need more sleep (and often feel more fatigued) as pregnancy progresses, probably because of rising levels of certain hormones. This problem is often compounded during the third trimester because of increasing discomfort, which can relate particularly to back ache and both heartburn and urinary frequency due to pressure on the stomach and bladder. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is also more common and if severe, it is important for the well-being of the mother and baby for it to be treated.

The onset of menopause is often associated with uncomfortable sweaty and hot flushes, which can upset sleep considerably. Thereafter (following menopause) sleep patterns and sleep problems in women more closely match those in men, although snoring and OSA still tends to be more severe in the male sex.