“I love to sleep. Do you? Isn’t it great? It really is the best of both worlds. You get to be alive and unconscious.” (Rita Rudner, 1953 – ).
Across the lifespan, women have a different experience of sleep and sleep disturbances compared to men. Hormonal, physiological, social and environmental factors can affect the menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy and menopause, and must be taken into consideration when treating sleep disturbances in women, including insomnia.
Many natural and regular hormonal functions occur in women at night during normal, healthy sleep. Any sleep disturbance may disrupt these functions, while a disturbance in hormonal processes can affect sleep, such as fragmented sleep, sleep duration, or a circadian shift in sleep timing, and others.
Uniquely in women, pre-menstrual dysphoria, pregnancy, postpartum depression and menopausal transition may be coincident with many sleep disorders. Recent research is currently investigating the possible relevance of sleep dysregulation to infertility.
While evidence-based, recommended treatments are used for sleep disorders in general, special consideration of these individual factors is essential to ensure optimum, long-term sleep health outcomes for women. Good sleep health is essential for optimum physical and mental health in general, and particularly for women at any point across the lifespan.
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