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Can Menopause Cause Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep Disorders?

Posted On February 7, 2014
February 07, 2014

Hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings are all symptoms that can occur in a woman’s rite of passage toward menopause. During this time in a woman’s life, sleep disturbances can also happen, which begs a question to be posed. Can menopause cause sleep apnea and other sleep disorders?

In answering, one needs to understand menopause itself. When a woman undergoes menopause or the transition period known as perimenopause, her body is attempting to adapt to many changes that run the gamut of hormonal, psychological and physical. With perimenopause, a woman’s ovaries produce less and less estrogen and progesterone, which results in fewer and fewer menstrual cycles. A year after her periods cease is when a woman is considered to have reached menopause.

Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep Disorders

During perimenopause and once she actually reaches true menopause is when a woman will experience the most issues with sleep. Both estrogen and progesterone are known to assist in promoting and regulating sleep. No surprise that with ever decreasing levels sleep is adversely affected. Add to the mix the problems that a woman faces with menopause, which can range from hot flashes resulting in night sweats to insomnia to sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea. In post-menopause, it has been discovered that snoring is much more common, which can be a hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition is characterized by an individual gasping for air while asleep due to an obstruction in her airway.

Studies have demonstrated as estrogen levels fall incidence of OSA increases. Published in CHEST, a group in Toronto, Canada discovered the following:

  • Forty-seven percent of post-menopausal women were found to have sleep apnea.
  • Twenty-one percent of pre-menopausal women were diagnosed with sleep apnea.
  • In excluding obesity and neck circumference as factors, the researchers believed that incidence of sleep apnea rose due to decreasing levels of estrogen.

Decreasing estrogen levels is what triggers a hot flash, whereby a woman experiences a feeling of heat that might start near her face and move throughout her body, and oftentimes an accompanying cold sweat will occur. Hot flashes/night sweats can be brief but also last for minutes, which can result in sleep being disrupted. Overall length of sleep time might remain the same but the quality can be negatively impacted.

Menopausal Treatment

While it is possible to treat menopause, it can come with a price. In order to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause, replacement hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) can be given but it puts the woman at a greater risk for dementia and cardiovascular disease. Each woman is different and after weighing the pros and cons in partnership with your physician, you might decide to go the route of hormonal replacement therapy at a low dose for a short amount of time. Or you might opt to approach in a more natural manner such as with herbal supplements that mimic estrogen—like dong quo and black cohosh, watch your nutrition and eat soy products, weight train to combat osteoporosis and follow a specific sleep hygiene regimen to help get proper rest.

Other sleep-promoting tips to combat menopausal symptoms are as follows:

  • Wear lightweight pajamas and put moisture-wicking sheets on your bed.
  • Eat foods that promote sleep such as bananas, chia seeds or take a melatonin supplement.

If you believe that you might have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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