Sleep and Menopause
Menopause is a period of significant hormonal, physical, and emotional changes for many women and has been linked to fragmented sleep and poor sleep quality. During the transition phase, or Perimenopausal phase, the ovaries slowly decrease production of the hormones Estrogen and Progesterone. This phase may take several years. Also, this period is when women complain of most sleep issues, such as insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats (due to decreased levels of Estrogen), and sleep disordered breathing.
In the years just prior to menopause, sleep disturbances become more prevalent. Studies have shown that women at this period in their lives often take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently throughout the night, and have more daytime sleepiness.
What can Women Do?
Below are a few tips to help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause-related sleep disturbances:
- Improve your sleep habits. Maintain a consistent schedule for sleeping and waking.
- Give yourself time at night to relax before going to bed. Relaxation and breathing techniques can be helpful.
- Consider the sleep environment. Your room should be dark and quiet.
- Keep the bedroom cool. This helps with the hot flashes
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Limit sugar intake.
- Keep a cool washcloth handy by the side of the bed.
- Use comfortable cotton bed linens.
Why Do Snoring and Sleep Apnea Become more Prevalent in Post-Menopausal Women?
The decreased levels of Estrogen and Progesterone during menopause are known to affect muscle tone in the upper airway making the muscles more collapsible.
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) has also been found to be linked to fluctuating hormone levels in women. Snoring and Sleep Apnea occur due to the collapsibility of the upper airway muscle tissue. The tone, or strength, of the muscle tissue is related to the levels of these hormones. When muscle tone diminishes, the upper airway becomes more collapsible, which can lead to snoring and sleep apnea. Additionally, hormonal changes can also lead to weight gain, which is known to increase the presence of Snoring and Sleep Apnea.
How are Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treated?
- PAP therapy is the most common and most effective way to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring.
- Oral Appliance Therapy is an alternative therapy to treat Sleep Disordered Breathing. An appliance, somewhat similar to a sports guard or orthodontic retainer, is worn in the mouth at night to reposition the jaw forward, preventing the upper airway from collapsing during sleep.
- Weight Management is very important in addition to PAP Therapy and Oral Appliance Therapy.