FRIDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Driven to sleeplessness by the effects of stress and the demands of their own biology, women are more likely than men to have serious sleep problems, experts say.
"We see insomnia much more frequently in women, probably at least 50 percent more often than men," said Dr. Ryan Hays, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
In response, women have turned to medication for help. In the age range most affected by insomnia, ages 40 to 59, nearly 15.5 million American women got a prescription last year to help them sleep -- nearly double the rate for men in the same age group, according to IMS Health, a health-care consulting firm in Danbury, Conn.
But sleep researchers believe there's a better way. Changes to a person's lifestyle and to the way they approach sleep can help in a more natural and more effective way than simply popping a sleeping pill.
And putting away the pills may be especially appealing in light of a report earlier this week in the journal BMJ Open that suggested prescription sleep aids may shorten your life or increase your risk of certain cancers.
"That's the ideal, to not rely on a pill to help you get to sleep," said Shelby Harris, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program in the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "It's always best to solve a problem without a pill. It really does depend on the patient, but we prefer if you can avoid medication."
Two major factors make women more likely than men to suffer insomnia, Harris said.
The first factor is innate and ancient. "There are a lot of hormonal and biological changes throughout the life cycle that women experience, and those affect sleep," she said.
These hormonal changes begin with menstruation and continue through menopause. P
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