The rate of sleep apnea jumps sharply after menopause, affecting 9% of postmenopausal women.
Studies show that lack of sleep leads to decreased function in the daytime, including lack of concentration, irritability, and a weaker immune system. For women undergoing menopause, this can be even more devastating as they are dealing with shifting hormone levels - which are often the root of their sleep problems - as well as all the stresses of adult life.
Fortunately, sleep disorders can be managed and even treated. Keep reading to learn all about sleep disorders: what they are, what causes them, who is at risk, and how to treat them.
About Sleep Disorders
On average, a healthy adult needs approximately 7 to 8 hours of undisturbed sleep per night.
Yet many women do not receive the proper amount. Those with sleep disorders experience the persistent problem of going without the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep, leading to a weakened immune system, increased anxiety, and a worsening of pre-existing medical conditions.
This may also have a strain on business or personal relationships and cause emotional disturbances. Women wake up more often during the night and as a result are tired and can't concentrate during the day. The sleep cycle is highly important to maintain a healthy demeanor and immune system, and sleep disorders throw this into disarray.
Symptoms of sleep disorders
Sleep disorders can encompass a variety of symptoms and conditions; however, there are certain warning signs that are fairly common. If experiencing any of the following, the existence of one or more sleep disorders is likely.
Types of sleep disorders
Approximately 16% of postmenopausal women report having trouble falling asleep, and 41% report waking up frequently during the night.
There is a wide variety of sleep disorders. A recent Gallup poll estimates that there are 65 million sufferers of the 70-80 types of sleep disorders that exist. As people age, there is a tendency to get less sleep in general, as well as less time spent in the deepest, most beneficial periods of the sleep cycle.
For menopausal women, the most commonly reported sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.
Menopause Symptoms Related to Sleep Disorders
The results of symptoms caused by these sleep disorders are often closely correlated to other symptoms of menopause. For example, night sweats, the nighttime version of hot flashes, can disrupt sleep patterns by causing a woman to awaken several times during the night. Sleep disorders can also lead to further depression and anxiety, which may make sleep difficult. This can cause a vicious circle of lack of sleep, fatigue, and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause.
Effects of sleep disorders
While it is possible to suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and be completely unaware of this during the evening, these interruptions in a woman's sleeping patterns will surely have a noticeable effect on her daily life. Below is a list of common effects of sleep disorders:
The rate of insomnia among women increases by 40% during the transitional period of menopause to postmenopause.
• Reduced capacity for learning, speech, and memory
• Inability to concentrate on daily tasks
• Higher chance of car accidents
• Tendency towards weight gain
• Weakened immune system
• Damage to business and personal relationships
• Increased irritability
• Depression and fatigue
Click on the following link to learn more about sleep disorders, or continue reading to find out about the likely causes of sleep disorders.
Sleeping disorders cover a wide spectrum of conditions; however, there are a number of bedtime rules and habits which can help alleviate a range of these disorders. Find rules which can be implemented to help aid sleep. These include: establishing a regular bedtime, relaxing before bed, and cutting out caffeine from your diet.
Sleeping disorders are common during menopause and symptoms include problems with memory and concentration, snoring, and sleepwalking. Find out about various different sleeping disorders and their symptoms. Conditions include sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. You are advised to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, as sleep is vital for good health.
Causes of Sleep Disorders
The primary reason why a woman may develop sleep disorders during menopause relates to the hormonal fluctuations that are taking place within her body. Declining levels of hormones, specifically of estrogen and progesterone, affect a woman in myriad ways, one being sleep disorders.
Estrogen and progesterone's effects on sleep
As mentioned above, estrogen and progesterone affect sleep. Dropping levels of either hormone can cause sleep disorders, although each one influences sleep differently. The information below specifies how estrogen and progesterone affect sleep. Continue reading to understand better how hormonal fluctuations causes sleep disorders.
How a Decline in Estrogen Affects Sleep
• Slows down the intake and secondary production of magnesium, a mineral that helps muscles to relax.
• Linked to hot flashes and night sweats, which interrupt sleep cycle.
• Linked to sleep apnea, which disturbs breathing during the night.
How a Decline in Progesterone Affects Sleep
• Progesterone has a sleep-inducing effect. When levels decline, the ability to fall asleep soundly does as well.
• Linked to insomnia, and inability to fall asleep promptly.
Although hormonal imbalance is generally the root cause of sleep disorders during menopause, a woman's psychology can also play a part in her sleep disorders.
Psychological causes of sleep disorders
• Stressful work situations
• Relationship problems
• Financial issues
During the years leading up to menopause, a woman must undergo a great deal of changes involving her body which can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Anxiety is linked to an inability to fall asleep, while depression has been known to cause early morning waking.
Problems at work or issues in interpersonal relationships can add to stress levels and make it difficult to relax enough to obtain a full night of rest. This can cause insomnia or other sleep disorders. The typical woman often has an extremely hectic schedule, balancing her family along with multiple other responsibilities, which can lead to little time for sleep.
Other risk factors for sleep disorders
Some women are more prone to sleep disorders than others. Below is a list of risk factors that can make a woman more susceptible to sleep disorders:
• High blood pressure
• Use of caffeine or nicotine
• Use of drugs or alcohol
• Inactivity or lack of exercise
• Working night shifts
Click here to learn more about the causes of sleep disorders, or continue reading below to find out the breadth of treatment options available for sleep disorders.
Do not let your sleep disorder take over your life. There are many reasons why this symptom of menopause can come about, but that doesn't mean you can't overcome it. The first step to recovering your dreams is understanding why your rest is disturbed; this way you can respond accordingly.
Menopause sleep disturbances include night sweats and cold night sweats and are often exacerbated by other menopausal symptoms. Preventative lifestyle changes should be tried as an initial course of action. These include avoiding caffeine and spicy foods before bed, sleeping in a cool room and wearing loose fitting pajamas. Alternative options such as natural teas may also be tried.
Treatments for Sleep Disorders
There is no denying the importance of a good night's sleep, yet unfortunately for many menopausal women, this is not a reality. As sleep disorders during menopause are commonly caused by hormonal fluctuations, three approaches can be considered for treating sleep disorders: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications. Keep reading to learn more about these three possible approaches.
Lifestyle changes to promote sleep
This primary level of treatment involves the least amount of risk, though conversely it requires the highest amount of self discipline. Many times, some simple changes in lifestyle can reap huge benefits in fighting sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders can be a result of other common menopausal symptoms, such as night sweats or anxiety. This may lead to fatigue during the daytime, and difficulty with normal daily tasks. In this case, the importance of a good night's sleep cannot be stressed enough. Simple changes such as exercising, practicing stress relief techniques, cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and using the bedroom only for sleep can all be helpful.
Tips for a Good Night of Sleep
• Go to bed only when sleepy
• Sleep only in the bedroom
• Get up at the same time each morning
• Discontinue caffeine and nicotine
• Exercise daily
• Avoid alcohol
• Limit fluid intake in the evening
• Practice relaxation techniques
However, if these simple lifestyle changes are not enough and a woman is still suffering from sleep disorders, she may want to move on to the next level of treatment, alternative medicine. Often a combination of both levels is the most effective approach.
If symptoms of sleep disorders persist, women may turn to the world of natural medicine in the pursuit of relief and a good night of sleep. Therapies such as massage, aromatherapy, and
hypnosis have been found to bring some women relief as they help to induce a calm state of mind, making it easier to fall asleep. In addition, herbal supplements can be a good option for treating sleep disorders.
If still suffering from sleep disorders, women may turn to the third, most drastic option: pharmaceutical relief.
Various prescription sleep aids are available on the market, such as zolpidem, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, and others. While these may be effective in the short term to get to sleep, in the long run they can cause dependence and don't promote the healthy REM sleep that is so necessary for healthy mind and body function.
If symptoms are at the level of severity that a woman is still considering this final option, it is wise to speak to a healthcare professional for guidance.
Click on the following link to read more specifics about each of the treatments for sleep disorders in order to learn how to alleviate sleep disorders in a safe and effective way.
Certain foods and drinks may help promote sleep and help ease sleeping disorders during menopause: one ideal combination is an oatmeal cookie and a glass of milk. Find out how, when consumed an hour or so before bed, these can both be beneficial. Reasons include the levels of calcium and protein in these foods.
It is important to develop and maintain healthy habits during menopause, as these can prove effective in managing and easing sleeping disorders. Find out about five daily habits which may restore healthy sleep patterns during menopause. These include taking regular exercise, staying busy during the day, and eating balanced meals.
- Breus, Michael. "Menopause and Sleep." MedicineNet.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- Walsleben, Joyce M.D. "Ask the sleep expert: menopause and insomnia." National Sleep Foundation.
- "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep." National Institute of Health, April 2006.
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