Navigating the Stormy Weather of Menopause
Part III: Sleep Disruption
Like so many women in the prime of their lives, Cheryl Miller was too busy with life’s responsibilities to pay attention to perimenopause’s first signals.
Perimenopause literally means the time “around” menopause and is a term used to describe the beginning of the estrogen decline leading to menopause. However, many women use the term “perimenopause” to describe the time when they first begin to notice menopausal symptoms.
With the help of Heather Pugmire, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) at the Bingham Memorial Women’s Center, it’s time to decode the signals of perimenopause—that transitional phase before periods end for good. Understand the symptoms and practical strategies for surviving sleepless nights.
Signal: Starry night sky with a slight chance of sleep.
Storm advisory: Cheryl can never forget her sleepless nights. “During the warring part of menopause, I had horrendous insomnia, for which I took Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, for about three years because I just couldn’t sleep at all,” Cheryl recalls.
How to weather it: Some women experience menopause-related sleep disturbances, especially if hormone changes provoke hot flashes (or “night sweats”) during the night.
To get more adequate shut-eye, women should first focus on improving their evening routines, including avoiding heavy meals and adjusting levels of light, noise and temperature.
“As people get older, having caffeine and chocolate, especially dark chocolate, may be a stimulant that prevents falling asleep easily, so they should be avoided after late afternoon,” Dr. Pugmire recommends.
To minimize night sweats, she suggests avoiding comforters that trap heat and opting instead for lightly woven bed linens that breathe. Also, keep the air circulating in your bedroom by setting an overhead fan on low.
If you enjoyed this article, you may like our other articles:Return to Health Matters for Women, February 2015 Edition