Menopause may cause Sleep Disorders
By Dr. Jean-Jacques Dugoua, ND
As if hot flashes, fatigue and mood swings weren’t enough to worry about; studies now show menopause may also be a cause of common sleep disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea.
Menopause is a time of change in a woman’s life as she passes from her
reproductive stage of life, to where she no longer menstruates or ovulates.
Menopause usually occurs at 50 to 51 years of age and is a gradual process.
As the ovaries age, they no longer respond as efficiently to the sex
hormones secreted by the pituitary gland. This results in irregular periods,
which eventually stop altogether. A New Risk Factor for Sleep Apnea
The Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study on menopause and its potential as a risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing.
A total of 589 pre-, peri- and postmenopausal women enrolled in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study were examined. The researchers found that postmenopausal women had approximately three times more sleep-disordered breathing events per hour of sleep than premenopausal women. The researchers concluded that the menopausal transition is significantly associated with an increased likelihood of having sleep-disordered breathing. Based on this study, it would appear that menopause is a risk factor for developing sleep-disordered breathing. Menopausal women with complaints of snoring, daytime sleepiness, or unsatisfactory sleep should see their health care providers for an evaluation for sleep-disordered breathing.
Hot Flashes and Insomnia
By Dr. Carolyn DeMarco
The most disabling aspect of menopause may be the sleep disturbance associated with hot flashes that awaken women suddenly from a sound sleep.
The number of hot flashes per night may vary from 2 to 10, but even a few can completely disturb sleep patterns. Learn natural ways to control your hot flashes so you can get the sleep you need.
What is a hot flash?
Natural hormone preparations can be very useful for women with severe nighttime hot flashes. I usually advise some type of natural progesterone preparation taken at night for 25 days each month. One of the side effects of natural progesterone is drowsiness, which is a good aid for sleep when taken at night. Natural progesterone can be taken as a cream, a lozenge or a pill. If symptoms persist, a natural estrogen preparation can be taken. You should use a preparation that is 80% estriol. Estriol is a type of estrogen that has a lower potential for causing breast cancer or other side effects than the stronger estrogens usually prescribed, such as estradiol.
Herbal preparations can be very helpful for hot flashes. There are many combination herbal formulas designed for menopause and you may have to experiment to see which one works best for you.
Standardized black cohosh root has been well studied in Europe for over 40 years. It improves all menopausal symptoms and has a good safety record.
Dong quai root (Angelica sinensis) is famed in Chinese medicine for its affinity for the female constitution. It contains many plant estrogens that are about 1/400 as strong as prescription estrogens. Dong quai balances the amount of estrogen in the body and usually relieves hot flashes.
It is also a great idea to see a qualified Chinese acupuncturist who can do pulse diagnosis and give you acupuncture treatments specific to your constitution and symptoms. Your health practitioner can then design an herbal combination for you that may include dong quai and other herbs.
In Chinese acupuncture, the twelve energy pathways of the body are balanced with acupuncture needles and herbs. Many women have had excellent relief of hot flashes when they receive a series of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments from an experienced practitioner.
Red clover extracts also contain plant estrogens that have a favorable effect on hot flashes.
Soy proteins contain 75% plant estrogens known as isoflavones, which have been shown to relieve menopausal hot flashes. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed (which has a nutty taste) or two servings of soy foods daily should help get rid of hot flashes. A new cookbook entitled Estrogen the Natural Way, Over 250 Easy and Delicious Recipes for Menopause, by Nina Chandler (Villard, 1997) provides new ways to add soy and flaxseed to your diet. Click here for more information on soy.
Vitamin E enhances the effect of estrogen in the body and is helpful for hot flashes. One controlled study of 94 women showed that of women who received 200 mg of vitamin C combined with 200 mg of bioflavonoids six times a day for hot flashes, 67% reported complete relief and 21% reported partial relief. Bioflavonoids have a very weak estrogenic effect.
Two food supplements, evening primrose oil and bee pollen, are safe and effective for hot flashes. It is usually wise to take calcium and magnesium at night to enhance sleep.
Tryptophan prescribed by your doctor or 5-HTP from the health food store can also be added to this regime