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During Sleep Awareness Week 3-9th July
By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist: Psychology Consultants
Most women would agree that they don’t sleep as soundly as their male counterparts and the National Sleep Foundation agrees, with research confirming the widely-held belief that most women don’t sleep as well as men. The International Journal of Endocrinology concurs suggesting women are 1.5 to 2 x more likely to suffer insomnia than men. *1
So why is this the case and what can women do about it?
There are many reasons for the differences in men and women’s sleep architecture, some are psycho-social, some emotional and then there’s the physical. Unfortunately, it’s the physical that women lack control over, particularly with respect to our hormones, with menstrual cycles, pregnancy and later in life, menopause, all wreaking havoc on sleep.
Clinical Psychologist and facilitator of sleep program, Towards Better Sleep, Kathryn Smith says; “There is a significant correlation between a women’s cycle and sleep, mainly due to the fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone. The post-ovulatory luteal phase (premenstrual) is where most women experience bouts of insomnia, when night time body temperature is considerable higher and estrogen levels lower, meaning your brain is more sensitive to noise and disturbances”.
But let’s not accept defeat and get hung up on the fact that your hormones are working against you. The best way to combat these monthly bouts of insomnia is to accept them and be prepared for some sleep disturbance; making the most of your sleep in the lead up and after the pre-menstrual phase. Keeping healthy sleep habits all month round will also give you the best chance of a decent night’s sleep, despite the pesky hormones. This includes:

  • Avoiding the urge to eat chocolate or sugary treats close to bed time
  • Reduce fluid intake within a few hours of bed to avoid getting up to use the bathroom (this includes alcohol that will only inhibit sleep)
  • Keep up the exercise regime but not within 3 hours of bedtime
  • Think about what makes you feel most relaxed and create a night time relaxation routine
  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed, do something that is non-stimulating and return to be 30 minutes later.

For more information on sleep health visit
References: 1. International Journal of Endocrinology: Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 259345, 17 pages