Sleep disorders in women

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By Antonio Culebras MD

Dr. Culebras is Professor of Neurology at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Consultant in the Sleep Center at Upstate University Hospital at Community General in Syracuse, New York. In this clinical summary, Dr. Culebras describes the idiosyncrasies of sleep in women, including changes that occur with the biological life cycles of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Each phase increases the risk of sleep disturbance in unique ways that require distinct management.

Key Points

  • Although women sleep better than men, 46% complain of trouble sleeping almost every night.
  • The menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause are the principal modifying factors that increase the risk of sleep disturbance.
  • Sleep apnea affects 10% of pregnant women, particularly those who are obese, with the incidence reaching a peak in the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • The notion of a pathogenic link between sleep apnea and preeclampsia opens opportunities for prevention and treatment.
  • The cause of poor sleep quality in menopause is likely multi-factorial.
  • Several sleep-related disorders, including restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and sleep-related eating disorder, are more prevalent and severe in women.