One of the most common symptoms women experience during menopause is sleep disturbance. While this change is thought to be related to depression, hot flashes, and fluctuating hormone levels, few studies have examined whether they actually affect sleep. In a new study, published in Women’s health magazineresearchers have modeled which factors influence sleep in menopausal women.
Women’s sleep quality declines as they enter menopause. Concerningly, women who report sleep problems also report reduced quality of life and overall health. “Women experience incredible amounts of uncomfortable symptoms during menopause. It’s concerning because the effects can be so debilitating and last for years,” says Megan Mahoney, an associate professor of psychology.
Most researchers previously hypothesized that changes in reproductive hormone patterns cause poor sleep quality and depression in middle-aged women. During aging, the decrease in the hormones estradiol and progesterone and the increase in levels of the follicle-stimulating hormone can cause insomnia. In addition, hot flashes can also make it more difficult for women to fall asleep and stay asleep. However, previous studies have not conclusively shown the underlying causes of sleep deprivation.
Studies on menopausal women go back only three decades, in part because the symptoms aren’t deadly. However, researchers now have access to larger datasets, allowing them to better understand the numerous manifestations of menopause.
The researchers used data from the Midlife Women’s Health Study, which was designed to identify risk factors for menopausal symptoms in middle-aged women. More than 700 women participated in the four-year study.
During the initial clinic visits, they completed questionnaires about their medical history and submitted blood and urine samples. For the next three years, they returned to the clinic once a year and completed follow-up questionnaires about their menstrual cycles, health status, lifestyle, depressive symptoms and sleep, and submitted blood and urine samples.
The researchers then used a Bayesian network analysis to model the most likely reason for self-reported insomnia in middle-aged women. They tested several factors, including hormone levels and hot flashes, to see how they interact to influence sleep disruption.
“Surprisingly, we didn’t find that hormone levels can predict sleep disturbance. However, we found that women who have hot flashes at night also have insomnia. In addition, women who had insomnia in the fourth year of the study also had it in the first year. The same was true for depression,” Mahoney said. “The bottom line is that some of these symptoms don’t necessarily go away over the course of menopause. When women go to the doctor, they can address long-term problems if they address these issues early in their menopause. ”
The researchers would like to know whether there are lifestyle factors, such as high cholesterol, that can predict insomnia in menopausal women. If so, exercise and diet can go a long way. They are also interested in the extent to which exposure to environmental chemicals leads to sleep disruption.
“Women are continuously exposed to phthalates through their use of personal care products and plastics. We need to investigate the associations of these endocrine disruptors with sleep disorders and insomnia,” said Jodi Flaws (EIRH co-leader/MME), a professor of comparative studies. life sciences and co-author on the paper. “Such studies will serve as the basis for strategies to prevent or treat sleep disturbances and ultimately improve women’s health.”
Katherine M. Hatcher et al, Nocturnal Hot Flashes, but Not Serum Hormone Concentrations, as a Predictor of Insomnia in Menopausal Women: Results of the Midlife Women’s Health Study, Women’s health magazine (2022). DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2021.0502
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Quote: Study Models Causes of Insomnia in Menopausal Women (2023, March 14) Retrieved March 17, 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-03-insomnia-menopausal-women.html
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