Women, Aging and Sleep Issues

As we age, both men and women, sleep can become more and more of an issue. For women especially, the post-menopausal era is most detrimental to sleep. Some 61 percent of women report having sleep issue in this phase (usually post-50-years-of-age), including insomnia, snoring, gasping for breath and even sleep apnea symptoms.

Decreased levels of estrogen, which lead to hot flashes, which lead to sleep interruption, are largely the cause of these nighttime issues. Fortunately, for most women the hot flashes last just one year, but for some they can last up to five years.

Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRM) have been used to counter the effects of menopause, but side effects forced the cancellation of a government-funded study of these treatments, which were conducted under the banner of the Women’s Health Initiative.

Calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis are often used as alternative approaches to post-menopausal sleep and other health problems. Soy products like tofu have also proven useful.

In general, however, good sleep hygiene has been shown to be as effective here as with other forms of sleep problems. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and large meals before going to bed; at least give yourself a four-hour window after indulging in anything of the sort.

Whatever your sleep issue, if you can’t master it on your own, then you owe it to yourself and your well-being to seek professional help. Sometimes a simple bit of advice — or a simple in-office, non-invasive procedure — can turn the corner for you. Don’t let sleep problems rob you of a robust daily life.

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