Menopause – sleeping through hot flushes & hormones

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Whether it's your body on fire (or the woman's body lying next to you) it doesn't matter. Either way the pair of you are not getting a good night's sleep until you find some A-grade solutions.

 

Menopause & Sleep

Menopause and sleep are not a happy combination. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 61% of menopausal women have sleep problems. That's a lot of 40 and 50 year old ladies that are going to feel grumpy and stretched for 5-8 years of their life! The sleep problems are many - from insomnia to restless leg syndrome, from multiple wakings to vivid dreams, from hot flashes to sleep apnea (linked to weight gain from a drop in metabolism).

As with most sleep problems, the culprit is chemical imbalance. This time it is low levels of oestrogen and progesterone that are to blame. Menopause or the 'pausing of menstruation' is due to a drop in these hormones. While you may be pleased to stop ovulating and menstruating (goodbye PMS!) you may not be so happy to share your life with hot flashes that lead to profuse sweating.

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Treatment

In the past, women were quick to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) which meant pumping oestrogen and/or progesterone back into their bodies through pills, patches and creams. However, long-term studies have shown that these often high, uncontrolled doses led to an increase in the occurrence of blood clotting, breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. The approach nowadays is more conservative.

Risk vs Benefit

Most doctors prescribe the lowest dose of HRT that gives the greatest amount of relief to women who have severe symptoms that are negatively impacting their lives. Consider the marital strife if both partners aren't sleeping at all or a CEO that struggles to get through a presentation without turning red-faced and getting sweaty pits. For some women HRT is an essential intervention. For others, there are alternate strategies that do the trick.

Tried & Tested Advice

Here is what the menopausal ladies (and their men) had to say about getting some sleep:

"Use a ceiling fan or turn your ceiling fan up, up, up"

"Get cotton bedding and make sure you set up your bed in layers (sheet, blanket, duvet) so you can throw off what you need to without freezing your hubby"

"I keep ice packs on hand and put them in my pillow or at my feet when a hot flash attacks"

"Exercise seems to make me sleep deeper and decrease my restless leg syndrome"

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 "I'm trying very hard to understand this generation. They have adjusted the timetable for child-bearing so that menopause and teaching a 16-year-old how to drive a car will occur in the same week"        Erma Bombeck

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