Karen L. Giblin is founder and CEO of Red Hot Mamas North America, Inc., a group that educates thousands of women about menopause health, and a world-renowned expert on menopause issues. To find out more and to join the menopause conversation, visit her website, redhotmamas.org.
Sixty-one percent of FOFs have trouble sleeping . . . but you can beat the odds.
FOF: Karen, tell us a little more about this survey.
KG: More than 900 women participated in our survey, and they shared their sleep problems in depth. Sleep is an important aspect of a woman's life. Lack of sleep compromises our health, both physically and mentally. Our survey found that lack of sleep could seriously impact a woman's quality of life, as well as her relationships with her spouse, significant other and business associates.
FOF: What causes the sleep problem primarily?
KG: Many sleep problems are not fully understood, including chronic insomnia. But certain stressful events, such as menopause, create anxiety that leads to short-term insomnia and then long-term sleep problems. Seventy-six percent of our respondents said sleep greatly or moderately affected their quality of life.
FOF: How exactly does menopause affect sleep?
KG: Some women are bothered at night by hot flashes. Other issues are sleep apnea, use of prescribed medications, stress, and just the overall changes that occur in midlife. Menopause often provokes anxiety since women aren’t feeling completely up to par physiologically. Many of them feel like Mexican jumping beans in the middle of the night. The next day, they’re irritable, drowsy and can't function. In our survey, forty-one percent of the respondents said they had difficulty concentrating. Unfortunately, only 38 percent of them consulted with their healthcare providers about their problem.
FOF: Why aren't women talking about it with their doctors?
KG: Women tend to overlook their need for sleep. We oftentimes take care of others before taking care of ourselves. They also don’t think their doctors will take their sleep issues seriously. In my opinion, there needs to be more awareness about sleep issues as this is a major health concern for women. Insomnia not only causes poor concentration and memory loss, it can also lead to increased risk of accidents, heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and depression. We need about seven hours a night for optimum health.
FOF: Why not take sleeping pills?
KG: There are several prescription options to improve sleep, but taking medication is a personal decision, The first thing to do is establish healthy sleep habits. It’s important to have a schedule for sleep every night, to learn how to wind down before going to sleep. Create a soothing bedtime ritual if you can. Read a good book in a comfortable pair of pajamas. Sleep on nice, clean linens in a cool environment. Maybe listen to a soothing CD. Don't put on the TV set and watch the news before you go to bed. Make sleep a priority in your life.
FOF: What if you still get up in the middle of the night?
KG: Don’t stare at the clock and let the day's worries run through your mind. Get up out of bed and do something boring such as reading a boring book or listening to relaxing music. Many menopausal women tell me they've become proficient HSN and QVC buyers. They get themselves into trouble because all these boxes start arriving. Once you feel drowsy again, go back to your room and go to bed.
FOF: What’s the most important thing to take away from this study?
Communicate with your healthcare professional. Discuss the duration and frequency of the problem and how it’s impacting your life so she can advise you about what to change. You might need to eliminate caffeine or make environmental changes, such as making sure your bedroom is cozy, cool and dark. Discuss treatment options with your clinician. For resources on how to manage insomnia during menopause, visit www.takebackyoursleep.com.
Dr. Vensel Rundo adds:
"If you’re over fifty and you suddenly start experiencing difficulty sleeping, it’s important to determine is this is insomnia or if there’s some other kind of sleep disorder--namely, sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by an obstructed upper airway, causing repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. Sufferers wake up throughout the night and may not even realize what’s happening. Post-menopausal women are at increased risk, because with a loss of hormones there’s a loss of tone in your airway muscles. That makes your airway more collapsible and floppy and increases your chances of apnea. To be screened for this disorder, you have to go through an overnight sleep study at the clinic. But once we diagnose you, there are excellent treatments available."