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Sleep apnea Number One Sleep Disorder During Menopause

Review on January 29, 2008

New research has revealed that many women are suffering needlessly from a common sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA) without even knowing it. Sleep apnea is a disorder that involves the disruption of breathing during sleep, resulting in snoring, frequent awakening during the night, and less restful sleep. Sleep apnea may be under-diagnosed in women, because it has traditionally been viewed as a "male" disorder.

Sleep apnea is notably more common and more acute in menopausal and postmenopausal women, largely as the result of weight gain along with currently obscured hormonal mechanisms. Recent research has revealed that progesterone and estrogen hormone therapy may help in easing sleep apnea and in bettering overall sleep quality in women going through menopause.

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According to a study led by Netzer, Eliasson and Strohl, low levels of sex hormones in women are associated with sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing. The doctors tracked 53 women ranging in age from 24 to 72, measuring their sleep and breathing patterns and hormonal levels (determined from blood samples). They found that women who had the lowest amounts of the hormones progesterone and astradiol had the most intense sleep apnea.menopause sleep disorders.

Eichling and Sani determined that estrogen is a significant factor in restful sleep, but other research has found that progesterone is just as essential a factor. In the study "Effects of progesterone on sleep," investigators describe progesterone as a hormone that plays an important role in several bodily processes, including sleep quality and respiration. The hormone has a sleep-inducing affect and strongly stimulates respiration.

Menopausal women who experience less restful, frequently disrupted sleep should consult with their doctors about being tested for sleep apnea.

  • Lamberg, Lynne. "Menopause Not Always to Blame for Sleep Problems in Midlife Women." JAMA. 2007;297:1865-1866. Vol. 297 No. 17, May 2, 2007.
  • Eichling PS, Sahni J. "Menopause related sleep disorders." J Clin Sleep Med. 2005 Jul 15;1(3):291-300.
  • D'Ambrosio C, Stachenfeld NS, Pisani M, Mohsenin V. "Sleep, breathing, and menopause: the effect of fluctuating estrogen and progesterone on sleep and breathing in women." Gend Med. 2005 Dec;2(4):238-45.
  • Andersen ML, Bittencourt LR, Antunes IB, Tufik S. "Effects of progesterone on sleep: a possible pharmacological treatment for sleep-breathing disorders?" Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(29):3575-82.