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Can’t Sleep? Blame Your Hormones

Older postmenopausal women have altered hormone levels that increase body temperature.

AnnA Rushton

Now I doubt this will come as news to any woman – postmenopausal or not – but you know scientists, they love to prove what we already know.  This study, authored by Patricia J. Murphy, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical School in White Plains, NY, focused on 10 women between 57 and 71 years of age, who were at least five years past menopause.  Now this is a very small sample indeed, but they did manage to determine that a higher body temperature affects sleep quality.

A quick phone call to immediate family members like mothers and grandmothers might have saved some time as night sweats certainly do nothing to induce a restful sleep.  However, if you want the scientific explanation as to why you can’t sleep at menopause, here it is – and I quote:

‘The study found that altered levels of both sex hormones and gonadotropins may contribute to sleep disturbance in older postmenopausal women and confirm the results of previous studies indicating that higher body temperature is associated with poorer sleep quality.  According to the results, lower estradiol (E2) and higher luteinizing hormone (LH) levels were significantly correlated with indices of poor sleep quality, with relationships between LH and quality of sleep being stronger than those for E2. In addition, significant increases from basal LH levels occurred more frequently after sleep onset than prior to sleep onset, and 30 of 32 of these LH pulses occurred prior to long awakenings from sleep. Further, higher body temperature prior to and during sleep was significantly correlated with poorer sleep efficiency and higher LH levels.”

Bet you feel better for knowing that: “perimenopausal and postmenopausal women share many of the same features of sleep disturbance, such as awakening in the early morning hours and an inability to return to sleep. Furthermore, several studies have shown that hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms that influence sleep continue years beyond menopause in up to 40 percent of postmenopausal women. Thus, the sleep difficulties that emerge at menopause often do not abate and may become compounded by age-associated disruption of circadian and homeostatic processes that regulate sleep.”

We already know that the hormonal and physical changes that occur during and after menopause can affect a woman’s sleep.  If you are lucky it is a passing phase that responds well to progesterone, acupuncture, herbs, and any combination of those plus whatever works for you.  Valerian is a herb used traditionally for insomnia and anxiety and a new study from Tehran University in Iran has shown it improved sleep in 30 percent of women who received it during a trial. The women reported better quality of sleep – they were able to fall asleep faster and woke up less often than they had previously.

Also, remember to to keep as cool as you can, so no heating in the bedroom, and just the minimum of bedding to be comfortable.  Try to keep stress and anxiety levels to a minimum as worrying about not sleeping is a sure fire way to keep yourself awake. Valerian may help with that too, as will Rescue Remedy.

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