Insomnia In Women: Causes And Symptoms

insomnia in women

Do you experience difficulty sleeping?

Do you face difficulty in falling asleep?

Do you have difficulty staying asleep?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it’s time to think about your sleep patterns as you are likely to be suffering from insomnia. It is a very common sleeping disorder. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal Sleep Medicine Research[1], women are more prone to sleep-related problems as compared to men and are also at high risk of being diagnosed with insomnia. The risk is particularly high in women in their mid-30s and 40s. Also with age, the risk tends to increase further. In this article, we share some of the common causes that can lead to insomnia in women and its symptoms.

Insomnia Symptoms: How To Know?

The common symptoms of insomnia in women include feeling restless and tired after sleep, waking up too early or the inability to go to sleep for at least three nights a week for three months[2]. Most adult women need at least seven hours of sleep per night to remain healthy. If insomnia is chronic or long-term, then it becomes more difficult to complete regular tasks along with affecting daily chores. Additionally, insomnia can cause other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and depression.

The most common symptom of insomnia in women is difficulty in sleeping. However, you may be affected by the disorder if you:

– Cannot sleep during the night and stay awake

– Cannot go back to sleep after waking up during the night

– Feel tired when you wake up

– Can only sleep for short periods

Insomnia causes a woman to feel irritable, anxious or tired in the short-term. Over time, this lack of sleep will lead to more serious problems such as:

– Increased risk of falls, particularly among the elderly

– Diabetes and high blood pressure

– Increased risk of accidents

– Increased chances of stroke and obesity

– Increased risk of stress and depression

What Causes Insomnia In Women?

Insomnia is more common among women than men[1]. In women, factors that cause insomnia are:

1. Menstruation

It may sound surprising but in reality, menstruation is one of the common causes of sleepless nights in women. This is because numerous hormonal changes occur during menstruation. Moreover, most women experience irregular sleep cycle during their menstrual cycle due to discomfort. However, if such discomforts change your sleep schedule permanently, then it can lead to insomnia[3]. It is especially common in those women who have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a more intense type of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, there is no need to panic as there are ways to treat it through medication or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

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2. Irregular Sleep Cycle

It goes without saying that a healthy sleep cycle is a key to have a good night’s sleep and also lead a healthy life. Any changes in your sleep pattern or schedule can have detrimental effects on your overall well being. If you experience constant changes in your sleep cycle due to rotating shifts at work or late-night work schedule on and off, then you are at risk of developing insomnia[4]. However, what is good about this thing is that it can be prevented as well as treated by making a few simple tweaks in your sleep cycle.

3. Medications

There are certain medications which can hinder your ability to get a good night’s sleep, which in the long run may make you prone to insomnia. A wide range of prescription medications used to treat and manage medical and psychiatric disorders can affect your sleep patterns. It is mostly due to side-effects of these medications but they may not always lead to insomnia. However, these medications cause long term complications such as if your sleep cycle is disturbed often and for longer durations, then you can develop insomnia. The best way to deal with it is to talk to your doctor and discuss your problems with him/her for a better outcome.

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4. Stress & Depression

Stress & depression are considered to be the main causes of insomnia. Stress can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and causes you to stay asleep. It also affects the quality of your sleep and your sleep patterns. Stress can cause you to stay awake for longer durations whereas depression deteriorates your quality of sleep[1]. If left unchecked and unmanaged, then stress & depression can cause insomnia.

In the case of insomnia related to stress, alleviating the stress can help deal with insomnia. This can be achieved by trying stress-busting tips such as exercising, dancing, joining a hobby class, swimming, meditation, cooking, listening to music, etc. For depression, it is important to consult a psychiatrist or go for counseling to find a solution and lead a happy life.

5. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a contributing factor to insomnia in some women, especially during the third trimester. It is reported that 30% of pregnant women and 42% of postpartum women rarely get a good night’s sleep[1]. During this period women are known to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night due to cramps or discomfort[5]. It leads to major changes in the regular sleep schedule which can lead to insomnia. So if you are finding it difficult to get your daily dose of sleep or you are spending sleepless nights most often than not, then it is wise to consult your doctor and get it treated.

6. Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopause (it’s the time when menopause starts to happen, generally takes a few years) and menopause are other common factors which cause insomnia in women[6]. It is attributed due to symptoms such as hot flashes which are common during this phase. However, not every woman who experiences hot flashes is at risk of insomnia. If the hot flashes alter your sleep schedule, then it may put you at risk of insomnia. According to a study[], 25% of perimenopausal women and 30% of postmenopausal women sleep peacefully only a few nights per month and not every day. If this interferes in your day-to-day activities, then do consult an expert to relieve the symptoms and have a good night’s sleep.

If your sleep cycle is affected by a short-term change in your schedule such as working late at night for a few days or jet lag, then your sleep schedule will be back to normal by itself. However, if it is chronic or long-term, then prescription medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are the best ways to get it treated. It is important to remember that there are a lot of OTC medicines for insomnia but you should always consult with your doctor before taking them. Insomnia may not always be the core issue. It may appear as a side-effect of medicines, change in schedule or it could be a symptom. Therefore, consult with a physician and learn about treating insomnia safely.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

7 Daytime Habits That Will Help You Get A Goodnight’s Sleep

The Best And The Worst Sleeping Positions


1. Nowakowski S, Meers J, Heimbach E. Sleep and Women’s Health. Sleep Med Res. 2013;4(1):1-22.

2. National Institute of Health. Insomnia | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 5 October 2018].

3. Jehan S, Auguste E, Hussain M, Pandi-Perumal S, Brzezinski A, Gupta R et al. Sleep and Premenstrual Syndrome. Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders [Internet]. 2016 [cited 5 October 2018];3(5).

4. Roth T, Roehrs T. Insomnia: Epidemiology, characteristics, and consequences. Clinical Cornerstone. 2003;5(3):5-15

5. Wołyńczyk-Gmaj D, Różańska-Walędziak A, Ziemka S, Ufnal M, Brzezicka A, Gmaj B et al. Insomnia in Pregnancy Is Associated With Depressive Symptoms and Eating at Night. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2017;13(10):1171-1176.

6. Johnson E, Roth T, Schultz L, Breslau N. Epidemiology of DSM-IV Insomnia in Adolescence: Lifetime Prevalence, Chronicity, and an Emergent Gender Difference. PEDIATRICS. 2006;117(2).

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