Tips for Women and Men in Search of a Good Night's Sleep

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Good Sleep

For many women, it's tough to get a good night's sleep. Studies show that women may be 20 percent to 50 percent more likely to have insomnia than men.

One culprit behind women's sleep difficulties can be fluctuating hormone levels. With optimal levels of estrogen and progesterone in your system, the time it takes to fall asleep and the number of awakenings during the night decrease. But hormone fluctuations occur for many reasons, including monthly menstrual cycles, use of birth control pills, pregnancy, and perimenopause - the five to 10 years before and up to one year after menstrual periods end.

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, simple changes in your daily and nightly habits may result in better sleep. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers these suggestions:

  • Caffeine: Limit it. In addition to the usual sources - coffee, tea and soda - be aware of caffeine in chocolate and in medications used to treat headaches, colds and sinus congestion.

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  • Nicotine: Nicotine impairs the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Alcohol: Even though drinking alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, as few as one or two drinks within two hours of bedtime tend to disrupt your sleep and lead to more frequent awakening in the latter half of the night.

  • Inactivity: Lack of physical activity during the day is associated with increased sleep problems. But strenuous exercise too close to bedtime may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

  • Large meals: Eating too much close to bedtime may make falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult.

  • Naps: Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can't get by without one, limit it to less than 30 minutes.

If self-treatment strategies don't help, ask your doctor for help. Sleep difficulties can be related to a number of medical conditions.

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