Got sleep?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2009 in sleep disturbance | 0 comments

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How many nights do you lie awake, staring at the clock and just hoping for a wee bit of shut-eye?

If you are like many women in peri- or post-menopause, the answer is probably “a lot.” However, data presented at last month’s North American Menopause Society Annual meeting show that sleep problems do not change uniformly across menopause, which is why addressing them effectively can be difficult for some women.

Researchers examined the sleep patterns and symptoms of 286 women who participated in the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. All participants completed daily menstrual calendars, which were used to track their experiences across the menopausal transition and rate the severity of all symptoms. For five years, they also provided the researchers with first-morning urine samples so that estrogen, fallopian stimulating hormone, and stress hormones could be measured.

The result? Depending on your sleep pattern, the relationship to certain factors changed. For example, nighttime awakening was mostly associated with age, being late in the menopausal transition (before moving into full-blown menopause), early menopause, hot flashe, depressed mood, joint pain and stress. Early morning awakening was associated with age, hot flashes, depressed mood, anxiety, joint pain, stress, and lower estrogen/higher FSH levels. On the otherhand, difficulty falling asleep was associated with menopausal symptoms in general, stress, and lower stress hormone levels.

However, regardless of whether women were having trouble falling asleep, awoke several times during the night or awoke in the early morning hours, sleep disruption was consistently associated with hot flashes, depression and stress.

In light of these findings, the researchers concluded that interventions to improve sleep might be more effective if they were targeted and focused, for example, towards night-time awakening and hot flashes, or difficulty falling asleep and depression, rather than clustered under the category of “sleep disruption” without examining exacerbating factors.

Of course, the greater implication here is that sleep-associated disorders during the menopause do not fall under the “one size fits all” approach and are better treated with individualized therapy. This is not to say, however, that certain interventions, like yoga or acupuncture can’t help address the cluster of sleep issues, hot flashes and stress, etc. Still, it’s best to consult with your practitioner before embarking on your own approach to solving the sleep woes. Personally, I find that I will be awake for hours in the nights preceding my menstrual period, regardless of the use of herbs, exercise or meditation. It just “is.” Yet, I’m glad to know there might be a better approach to addressing my specific woes.

What about you? What are you doing to get sleep?

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