Can’t sleep?

A recent study by America’s National Sleep Foundation revealed that an exhausted 70% of American women frequently have trouble sleeping, compared with just 52% of men. A sorry one-third of the women surveyed complained that they often had to cancel friends, family and exercise, and forego sex due to sleep problems.

Small wonder then, that we keep hearing that sleep is the new sex – it’s fast becoming such an elusive luxury that if a woman is lucky enough to get a lot of it at once, she will brag about it shamelessly.

Professor Gaby Badre, a sleep expert at the London Clinic, is not surprised by the findings. “Women are the most sleep-deprived creatures on earth. Their sleep is often more fragmented than men’s. I see a lot of female professionals who are stressed and can’t unwind when they go to bed. Take a board meeting: men can go in, act aggressively and then switch off. Women are more prone to taking the problem home.”

A classic insomnia scenario is waking up in the early hours of the morning at exactly the same time, say, 4.52am. Insomniacs do this because their body clock becomes sensitised after waking up once or twice at that hour.

“Although early-morning waking can be a symptom of depression, there are lots of other reasons for this, including stress or fluctuating hormones,” says Dr Meir Kryger, the author of Can’t Sleep, Can’t Stay Awake: A Woman’s Guide to Sleep Disorders.

Of course, one of the main factors pushing up the statistics for women’s insomnia is caring for babies. So are women actually hard-wired to wake up when an infant cries, in a way that men are not? “I’m not convinced that it’s an evolutionary quirk,” says Kryger. “I have observed cases in families where the man agrees to share bottle-feeding shifts during the night, and he wakes up perfectly easily. The human brain filters out all noise it subconsciously knows it is safe to ignore. So if the man was home alone with the baby, you can be sure he would wake up.”

The following is a guide to the main factors affecting women’s sleep and what you can do to address the problem.

Source - Times