Insomnia and menopause. Awake again…naturally

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in sleep disturbance | 1 comment

Sleep and menopause. One’s elusive and one simply won’t go away.  Yes, I know, I keep writing about this topic. But when you can’t recall the last time you slept through the night without awakening at least once, well, it becomes a bit of an obsession. So bear with me as I provide a bit more information on sleep and why (or why not) it may be eluding you as well.

Research suggests that menopausal women have significantly more sleep disturbance compared to their younger peers and on average, achieve less than six hours of sleep per  night. This results in fatigue-related accidents in the short term and more serious problems in the long term, including an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. And those wonderful mood swings that many of us experience? Well, it’s no surprise but they are made worse by insomnia. And yet, the reasons for the high prevalence (up to 60%) of sleep disturbances in menopausal women continue to be explored because definitive answers aren’t being discovered. Hence, is it menopause or aging or something else?

In a new report which appears online in Maturitas, researchers say age is not the key culprit and rather, that the factors causing a high percentage of women to lose sleep are actually multifaceted and believed to be controllable. The findings?

340 women (ages 40 to 59)  underwent analysis to assess hot flush presence and severity, and then used an insomnia severity index to rate the perceived severity of their insomnia based on sleep satisfaction, the degree to which daytime functioning was impaired, overall perception of impairment and distress, and how concerned they were about about their sleep. Roughly 65% of women in the study were sedentary (i.e. participated in less than 15 minutes of  physical activity twice weekly):

  • Roughly 61% had hot flashes, of which approximately 17% were severe to very severe
  • While about 41% of women reported some degree of insomnia, the majority said it was mild and only 9.5%, moderate to severe
  • Many women said that they had challenges with their partners that range from erectile dysfunction (~24%) and alcohol abuse (35%) to being unfaithful (42%)

When the researchers ran additional analyses, they discovered certain factors were definite contributors to insomnia, including being sedentary, having hot flashes, and having partner issues, namely men who had erection issues.

This is not the first study to link hot flashes to insomnia. Likewise, male sexual dysfunction has been associated with depression in the female, which impairs life quality and interrupts sleep. What’s more, in this particular study, women whose partners were faithful appeared to have less severe insomnia (perhaps, as a result of not worrying so much).  However, the researchers also concede that the precise cause of insomnia has yet to be clearly defined. And, they did not evaluate whether or not study participants had depression or anxiety or stress, all of which might contribute to insomnia.

In other words, they aren’t quite sure what the exact issues are.

So, does this bit of news tell us anything we’ve not heard before?

Where does this leave us? Between the pillow and the mattress and unfortunately, a hard place. There are no clearcut answers. Flashes and sweats and partners and life and estrogen, oh my.

Maybe it’s just going to be what’s it’s going to be. Sleep or no sleep? Blame it on…

One Comment

  1. 5-12-2011

    Nice informative post on the most common problem of insomnia.
    nice tips & information shared about the insomnia issues.
    thanks for the post.

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