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Medical Moment: Hormones to blame for sleep problems in women?

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 7:48 PM EST
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According to the CDC, more than one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.

There are lots of reasons for sleeping problems. But if you’re a woman, your hormones may be at the top of the list.

A bad night’s sleep can leave you tired, moody, and unfocused the next day.

“There’s no reason that anyone should have to be miserable, and sleep deprived,” says Katie Kovaleski, founder of Anytime Sleep Consulting.

If you’re a woman who doesn’t sleep well, research from Yale shows your hormones may be the culprit. Your body has 50 hormones that help start or stop certain body functions. The two major female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, may impact sleep at different times in a woman’s life. For instance, right before menstruation, progesterone levels dip dramatically. During pregnancy and menopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate up and down. Experts say try exercise to offset sleeping difficulties. Also, avoid nicotine and caffeine. And…

“According to the National Sleep Foundation, about two out of three women in or around menopause are going to have sleep issues,” says Mache Seibel, OBGYN at Harvard Medical School.

If you’re going through menopause, soy-rich foods which contain a chemical that mimics the effect of estrogen can help. These include tofu, miso, soy milk, and edamame. You may also want to ask your doctor about birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Some studies have found women who take these therapies report sleep improvements.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may especially struggle with sleeping difficulties due to hormones. They also have a greater risk of developing sleep apnea, a condition that causes irregular breathing during sleep.

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