Dr. Prudence Hall Answers questions to some of the most challenging and frustrating issues associated with not being able to sleep.
How many hours of sleep is realistic and okay for the average busy young woman? Eight just seems like a hard number to reach.
Dr. Hall: 8 hours is still the healthy amount of sleep needed to restore the body. The busier a person is, the more important sleep becomes. We spend our energy during the day and restore it during sleep. Sleep is when the body detoxifies itself and the endocrine glands rebalance, so get your sleep!
What causes insomnia and how can it be treated?
Dr. Hall: Insomnia is due to three major categories: hormonal deficiencies, our thoughts and emotions, and structural physical problems. The hormonal deficiencies causing insomnia are low estrogen from the birth control pill, perimenopause and menopause. In men, low testosterone is a cause of insomnia. When our adrenal glands are depleted or imbalanced due to stress, insomnia is also a common symptom. Drinking alcohol at night also causes insomnia, as do many antidepressants and medications.
How do our menstrual cycles and menopause impact our sleep patterns?
Dr. Hall: Right before a woman’s period, her estrogen levels fall causing insomnia. Insomnia due to low estrogen is intensified as a woman goes into menopause. In fact, one of the classic symptoms of menopause is awakening around 2 or 3 AM and not being able to go back to sleep.
Is it true that women with sleeping issues during pregnancy are more likely to have postpartum depression?
Dr. Hall: I have not observed this as a cause of post partum depression in my patients. Post partum depression is caused by the precipitous drop of estrogen after birth, and also declines in thyroid hormones due to the iodine deficiency. However, sleep deprivation is certainly a common symptom of post partum depression.
Sleep apnea is often looked at as a man’s disease, but many women have it too. How does it come about and how can it be treated?
Dr. Hall: Sleep apnea is one third less common in women than men, but is still a common cause of insomnia. Low estrogen in menopause or perimenpause can lead to loss of muscle tone in the neck and soft pallet, causing sleep apnea. Treatments include loosing weight, avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, replacing your deficient hormones with bioidentical hormones, exercise and a C-pap machine.