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For Sleep Struggles, Women Urged to Alter Routines
Date:3/2/2012

regnancy also can hamper sleep, particularly in the third trimester, and many women find it very difficult in the first few post-partum months to maintain a deep, healthy slumber. "Every little noise keeps you awake or wakes you up," Harris said, tracing the phenomenon back to evolution and a hypervigilance developed by our primitive ancestors to better protect their young.

But the second factor is external and modern. Much is required of women these days, as they juggle many different life roles, and the stress this creates can make it difficult to sleep, Harris said.

"It always seems like they're trying to fit a 30-hour day into 24 hours," she said. "There's little time for moms in particular to relax and unwind, to be able to go to sleep at night."

These problems can create a vicious cycle, where a woman who has trouble sleeping will begin to fret, which makes it even more difficult to sleep, Hays said.

"Patients often feel if they don't get a good night's sleep, the day after is going to be the worst," he said. "They start to learn to dread the bed."

Hays and Harris both recommend that their patients adopt changes in their routine to help them get better sleep. These behavior modifications go beyond the usual "sleep hygiene" recommendations -- like getting to bed on time every night, partaking in regular exercise or using your bed only for sleep or sex.

For example, many women with insomnia will lie in bed thinking about all the things they need to get done the next day, Harris said. She recommends that these women write up a to-do list early in the evening and then prioritize it. "Write everything out, so it's on paper and out of your head," she said.

Other women wake up in the middle of the night and decide to get some work done or perform some chores, which sounds like a good use of time but might be making matters worse, Harris noted.

"If you do that every night at 3:00 in the morning, you're just training your
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