Sleep difficulties are a common problem among women in the menopausal period, with hot flashes and night sweats commonly interfering with a restful night’s sleep. According to Baker and colleaguesBaker, 2015 , disturbed sleep is present in 40-60% of women in the menopausal transition. The authors also point out that insomnia is not well characterized, with poor identification of a physiologic basis for the sleep disturbances. In the research linked above, perimenopausal women diagnosed with clinical insomnia (n=38) were compared to women who did not have insomnia (n=34). Outcome measures included the Beck Depression Inventory, the Greene Climacteric Scale, sleep diaries, sleep studies, and nocturnal hot flashes via dermal conductance meters.
Results of the study concluded that women with insomnia, compared with controls, had higher levels of psychologic, somatic, vasomotor symptoms, and had higher scores on the depression inventory, shorter sleep duration, and lower sleep efficiency. Women with insomnia were also more likely to have hot flashes, with number of hot flashes predicting awakenings during the sleep study. Episodes of wakefulness after sleep onset, and decreased time of sleep were noted in the women who were diagnosed with new-onset insomnia.
Because untreated insomnia is associated with negative consequences including hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and depression, the authors suggest that women who are diagnosed with insomnia should be treated for their insomnia. If you are interested in learning about natural methods to manage and reduce hot flashes, among many other interesting topics, you will likely enjoy Herman & Wallace faculty Michelle Lyons and her newer course: Special Topics in Women’s Health. The next chance to hear Michelle discuss these topics is in Denver in January. Bring your skis!
Baker, Fiona C. et al. "Insomnia in women approaching menopause: Beyond perception" Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 60, 96-104 October 2015