Women reach menopause sometime between the age of 48 and 55. This major hormonal, physical and psychological shift in women contributes to an onslaught of sleep issues. Most notable, sleep problems occur from hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety and insomnia.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 61 percent of menopausal women have sleep problems. Post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep with snoring as the most common and severe sleep disorder among the group. Although, peri-menopausal women report the most sleep issues, ranging from insomnia to sleep apnea. The transitional years of menopause often coincide with other big life events like caring for aging parents, dealing with adult children, or raising grandchildren. The stress and anxiety of dealing with personal health issues while supporting others can be overwhelming and counter-productive if sufficient sleep is not part of the mix.
What is menopause? Menopause is caused by the decline in a women’s hormone production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Together, these hormones work to regulate a woman’s reproductive function and menstrual cycle. In addition, these hormones control mood, energy level, sex drive, emotion, and yes, sleep. As a woman’s ovaries decrease estrogen and progesterone production, this shift in hormone ratios contributes to the inability to fall asleep.
Why does menopause interrupt sleep? An early sign of menopause is insomnia. As estrogen levels decrease, women are more susceptible to symptoms, like hot flashes, that disrupt sleep. On average, about 75-85 percent of menopausal women experience hot flashes, which can continue for up to five years. A hot flash is a result of a drop in estrogen levels that cause the body temperature to rise. This heated moment lasts about three minutes and leads to sleep interruptions a few times during the night. These frequent interruptions cause next-day fatigue.
What treatments help? Hormone replacement therapy is an option in the form of a pill, patch, cream, or injection. However, a recent study linked a major risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia with hormone replacement therapy and all government funded studies have stopped. There are alternatives to hormone replacement therapy to ease the symptoms of menopause. Alternative treatments may include nutritional supplements, estrogen creams, sleep aids, and medications. In addition, women can modify the sleep environment to include cooling fans, light-weight sheets, and comfortable pajamas.
How does a sleep specialist assist? Chronic insomnia can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious medical conditions. Women can improve the quality of their slumber during menopause with the help of a sleep specialist. Using advanced technologies, a sleep specialist can provide tools that monitor and track sleep patterns and behaviors. This comprehensive snapshot of real-time data can be shared with doctors and other healthcare professionals for further evaluation. A sleep specialist affords women the autonomy to monitor and journal sleep habits that affect their health in the safety and privacy of their own home.
Every woman is different. It is imperative to talk with your doctor first to determine your specific situation and how menopause negatively affects your day-to-day routine, as well as your sleep patterns. If sleep is an issue, start with your own sleep study. Simply wear the The Plex® while you sleep. It monitors breathing patterns, pulse, and even oxygen levels during the night. The data collected can be shared with your doctor or sleep specialist to determine treatment. Stop sweating and start sleeping!