Struggling with Insomnia?
Here’s How to Find Relief

Insomnia is a common problem for people, but it tends to affect women more than men due to the impact of hormonal changes on sleep quality. Women can experience sleep problems during menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. While there are many guidelines on how many hours of sleep are recommended, the most important factor in determining whether or not you are getting enough sleep is if you feel rested when you wake up.

 

 

Occasional nights with lower sleep quality are not likely to have serious consequences. However, longer periods of poor sleep can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, trouble carrying out daily tasks, irritability, increased anxiety around sleep, and even worsening medical problems. If you are experiencing poor sleep most nights of the week, it’s important to talk to your doctor. The first step will be a thorough medical history and possibly additional tests to evaluate if there are other medical explanations for your poor sleep. Additionally, insomnia can be a symptom of depression and anxiety; therefore, the next steps would focus on treating depression and anxiety first.

 

 

Primary Ways to Address Insomnia:

Practicing Sleep Hygiene:

This involves making changes to your daily habits to promote better sleep. Try to establish a consistent routine for bedtime and waking up to train your brain. Create an optimal sleeping environment and avoid using screens (TV, phone, iPad) about 30 minutes before bedtime. Minimize napping during the day to prevent interruptions in your sleep cycle. Avoid substances that could interfere with sleep, such as afternoon caffeine, afternoon nicotine, late-night alcohol, or other medications or supplements that are known to disrupt sleep. Finally, use your bed only for sleep and sex to help train your brain to associate the bed with sleeping.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i):

This is an evidence-based treatment that helps improve sleep patterns, reduce anxious thoughts and actions that disrupt sleep, learn relaxation techniques, reduce anxiety around sleep, and develop skills to slow your mind down before bed. The Veterans Affairs website offers many resources for therapy and CBT for insomnia, including self-paced guides and phone apps, such as CBT-i Coach.

 

Medications:

These can be a treatment option in combination with improving sleep hygiene and engaging in CBT-i. Medications are best used in situations where there’s a brief change in your sleeping arrangements (such as traveling), adjusting to a night shift schedule, helping prioritize sleep in the postpartum period, or addressing sleep while other medical or psychiatric conditions are being treated. After a thorough medical history and any necessary tests, your doctor will talk to you about your goals with sleep and what options would be best for you.

 

Dr. Lenahan is a residency-trained psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health, including medication management of mood and anxiety disorders during and after pregnancy, mental health concerns around menstruation, as well as sleep, trauma, and ADHD. She has flexible hours including nights and weekend availability, and often same-week intakes with no waitlist.

 

If insomnia is impacting your quality of life, contact Seen Psychiatry for a free 10-minute discovery call. Dr. Danielle Lenahan specializes in women’s mental health and can help you explore effective treatment options. She offers flexible hours, including nights and weekends, and often has same-week intake availability with no waitlist. Visit www.seenpsychiatry.com to learn more.

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