Hormone or medication therapy as well as a variety of treatments for sleep apnea are options if lifestyle changes don’t help menopause-related sleep issues.
Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological changes for women, and those changes can have an impact on sleep.
During the time before menopause, called perimenopause, the ovaries decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. Sleep issues can start during this phase, but generally ramp up after menopause, when a woman has gone without a period for one year.
Hot flashes and obstructed breathing are the most common causes of sleep issues for women during menopause.
“Before a hot flash, body temperature rises, which results in waking up,” said James M. Graham, M.D., OB/GYN with Women’s Care Physicians of Louisville, a Part of Norton Women’s Care. “These flashes can last around three minutes. If a woman experiences several hot flashes during the night, it can lead to low-quality sleep and next-day drowsiness.”
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Additionally, as a woman ages, the throat muscles lose tone, impinging on the airway during sleep. This can cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Hot flashes will go away in one to three years for most women, but because OSA has impacts on heart health, mental health and more, it requires medical attention.
Read more: The link between heart disease and sleep apnea.
The good news is lifestyle changes may be all it takes. Losing weight, eating a balanced diet that includes soy and getting enough exercise can help.
Avoid nicotine, and keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum. Alcohol can increase hot flashes. Sleep in lightweight clothing and avoid heavy blankets. Use a fan or air conditioner to circulate air.
Hormone or medication therapy as well as a variety of treatments for OSA also are options if lifestyle changes don’t work.
The first step is making sure your health provider is aware of your sleep issues. A good night’s sleep is too important to your overall health to not do something about.
“Life is one big adaptation. You go through puberty and motherhood. Menopause is another change that you have to adapt to,” Dr. Graham said. “And your doctor can help you find solutions.”