Women get a tough break when it comes to menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and weight gain are just some of the undesirable symptoms you might experience1.
But sleep disturbances are one of the symptoms.
Post-menopausal women can be unsatisfied with their sleep. Before reaching menopause, around 12% of women report sleeping issues. Then when women reach their late forties to early fifties, this figure rises to almost 4 times the number of pre-menopausal women2.
Research also shows up to 60% of post-menopausal women have a sleeping disorder2.
So, why do post-menopausal women have such poor sleep?
In a nutshell, it’s to do with hormones.
Menopause happens when a woman’s ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone. Both hormones have a direct impact on our sleep2.
For instance, recent research suggests that lower levels of progesterone may contribute to sleep apnea. It appears to prevent the relaxation of the upper airways, causing the kind of breathing pauses seen in obstructive sleep apnea.
Estrogen meanwhile can affect our mood and sleep-wake cycle. It also helps keep our body temperature low at night, allowing us to get better quality sleep2.
The good news is that poor sleep doesn’t need to be inevitable post-menopause. There are measures women can take to get better sleep. But first, let’s dive a little deeper into the impact of menopause on our sleep.
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Hot flashes, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea are the most common sleep issues experienced by post-menopausal women.
Hot flashes involve a sudden rise in body temperature and blood flow to the face which creates a sensation of heat.
Because of this, women can get woken up and find it hard to fall back asleep due to the energising effect of the increased heat and adrenaline. In fact, among those women who suffer severe hot flashes, nearly 44% also meet the clinical criteria for chromic insomnia2.
Women are already unlucky enough to experience insomnia at a rate of 1 in four women (experiencing some symptoms), which is nearly double men. But the bad news is the risk of insomnia increases in menopause, with 61% of post-menopausal women reporting insomnia symptoms2.
You can prepare for your doctor’s consultation by asking yourself these questions to help determine whether you may have a sleep problem:
One of the clearest indicators might be your partner complaining that you’re snoring or that your breathing is irregular while you’re sleeping. If that's the case, you may benefit from seeing a healthcare professional.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. However, it’s worth checking out if you snore and/or have the above symptoms.
If your sleep is being impacted by menopause, the good news is, treatment may be available to minimise the symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy is one of the most common treatments for menopause and is proven to be effective in relieving symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia2. As with any treatment decision, it’s important to speak with your doctor about what’s right for you.
Your doctor can advise of the treatment options, including medications available and lifestyle changes that could help improve your sleep.
Following these three basic sleep hygiene practices may also help improve your sleep. These include:
1. Follow a regular sleep schedule and calming bedtime routine
2. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly
3. Keep your bedroom temperature at a level optimal for sleep
For many women, the menopause journey presents discomfort and side effects of low hormones. And its impact on sleep can be one of the frustrating symptoms.
However, there is help available and the sooner you get your sleep sorted, the quicker you'll be able to enjoy a deeper, more refreshing night's rest.
ResMed is a global leader in sleep technology that has its origins right here in Australia. Our goal is to provide people with the means to awaken their best and enjoy healthier lives by promoting good sleep habits and creating awareness for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
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