Sleep Disorders: Sleep and Menopause
Menopause is a stage in a woman's life when she stops having her monthly menstrual cycle (her period). It is a normal part of aging and marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. Menopause typically occurs in a woman's late 40's to early 50's.
When a woman goes through menopause, her body stops producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The loss of these hormones brings about various symptoms, including hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the body) and sweating (which is related to hot flashes).
Approximately 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes, which can last for five years. Hot flashes and sweating can make it difficult to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 40% of menopausal women have sleep problems caused by hot flashes. Sleeping difficulties can lead to other problems, such as daytime drowsiness.
How Can I Treat Sleep Problems Related to Menopause?
The traditional treatment for the symptoms related to menopause has been hormone therapy (HT). HT consists of estrogen given as a pill, patch, or vaginal cream, either alone or combined with progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone, or micronized progesterone). However, results from a large study, the Womens Health Initiative, showed that estrogen-progestin combination therapy caused an increased risk of breast cancer. Estrogen alone did not increase breast cancer, but the study also found that therapy with estrogen alone increases the risk of stroke in older women.
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