In casual conversation, I find myself describing what I do professionally, and it goes something like this: I teach behavioral strategies and research ways to help individuals, especially women, overcome their sleep problems. All too often, I am met with the response of “That is what I need! or “My mom/daughter/sister/friend needs to see you!” As discussed in the post “Why we care”, women are at an increased risk for experiencing Insomnia Disorder at almost 2 times the rate of men. Women with PMS, pregnant women, postpartum women, women who are approaching menopause, and older women, are particularly vulnerable to sleep disturbance. And sleep disturbance is not just a nuisance during these life transitions. Sleep disturbance, in turn, confers risk for adverse health outcomes that specifically pertain to women’s health, such as compromised maternal/infant outcomes, longer labor and delivery times, higher incidence for C-sections, and increased post-partum depression. It’s time for a wake-up call, not only to alleviating sleep disturbance in response to life events, but also to resolving the sleep disturbance that contributes to adverse health outcomes.
This can often be a challenging undertaking. Women are often juggling multiple occupational, familial, and/or community responsibilities. Many are caretakers for children and/or aging parents at the same time. While putting in long hours, sleep is often forfeited in order to meet the demands of the day. And when her head hits the pillow at night, it is often the first time she can “process” the day. For some, the mind starts to wander, and rumination can take over, providing little respite from the stress of the day. Unfortunately that tends to be counterproductive to falling and staying asleep. And when women do drift off, all too often, it is not uncommon for them to be woken by a child’s call, a pet’s needs, a hot flash, a bed partner’s snoring, or sometimes, no identifiable reason at all! For many reasons, be it physical, psychosocial, economic, or otherwise, women do suffer from insomnia more often than do men.
For these reasons, we have dedicated much of our attention to working with women and studying the particular processes by which health problems, particularly insomnia, manifests in our lives. We seek to understand, assess, and treat women while taking into account the unique circumstances that women are encountering in their lives.