From hormones to stress, a New York magazine report examines the possible reasons why insomnia is more common in women than men.
Wage gap? Desire gap? Orgasm gap? Meet the latest member of the outcome-disparity club: the sleep gap. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insomnia is more common in women than men — and experts believe there are a few specific reasons why this sad truth exists. Some relate to our biology and can cause sleeplessness directly, while others are conditions endemic to women that happen to list insomnia as a side effect. Here’s what you can blame for your restless nights, plus tips for how to get some effing shut-eye for a change.
Women have different levels of estrogen and progesterone than men — perhaps you were aware? — and those levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Doctors believe that these hormonal shifts can affect our ability to fall or stay asleep, says Dianne Augelli, M.D., a sleep expert at the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian. “Estrogen works on several different neurotransmitter pathways that may have an impact on the regulation of sleep, and progesterone can have a hypnotic property,” she says. “Fluctuations in these hormones may have an effect on the circadian rhythm.” The timing and severity can be different from woman to woman, and experts don’t fully understand how these hormone shifts disrupt sleep but they believe they play an important role, she says.
In addition to keeping you up at night, those hormones are also driving all sorts of menstrual side effects. Bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, and mood and anxiety changes can all make it harder to sleep.