Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Insomnia is one of the most common complaints during menopause, yet is one of the most underrated and underreported health concerns. Both women and their doctors need to know that sleep disturbances greatly impact many areas of women’s heath during and beyond menopause.
A recent survey sponsored by The Red Hot Mamas North America and Sunovian Pharmaceuticals and conducted by Manhattan Research reveals insomnia’s prevalence among menopausal women. A total of 927 women between 40 and 65 and in various stages of perimenopause and menopause responded to questions about sleep problems.
While this sample of the population is a small one, the results are a good indication of how many women are dealing with insomnia and sleep disturbances.
•63% of women surveyed reported trouble falling asleep
•79% have trouble staying asleep
•63% have trouble both with falling and staying asleep
•76% reported moderate to significant impact sleeplessness has on overall quality of life
•76% complain of daytime drowsiness/fatigue
•52% reported irritability
•41% noted difficulty concentrating on tasks/poor job performance
•34% believed insomnia affecting intimacy with spouse or partner
Insomnia not taken seriously
From comedy skits to so-called power women, insomnia is treated as a joke or a minor event best treated with cups of coffee or energy drinks. Think of celebrities, politicians and coworkers who pride themselves on getting only a few hours sleep at night. The current attitude embraces cramming as much activity into a day as possible; sleeping is seen as a virtual waste of time. Yet without quality sleep, overall health is at risk.
Karen Giblin, President and Founder of Red Hot Mamas, emphasizes the negative impact sleep disturbances have on menopausal women. “It’s not just the irritability or the lethargy we need to focus on. Women who are not getting enough sleep each night are at greater risk of developing more serious health conditions. Without adequate rest the body is unable to restore itself and is susceptible to diseases that thrive on a weakened immune system.”
Giblin adds, “Sleep affects everything in our lives including the ability to learn or the energy necessary to deal with daily stressors.” Compounded stress makes women prime candidates for developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure.
If insomnia is such an extensive problem, why is this topic getting little if any attention? Additional findings from the Sleep Survey reveal some shocking statistics concerning patient and doctor communication.
•62% of women did not discuss insomnia with their healthcare provider
•38% did discuss insomnia but of these women, 92% said that they had to bring up the subject with their doctor; doctors are not asking women about sleep issues
This goes back to the current attitudes about sleep and insomnia. Women may not be fully aware of how much their sleeplessness affects their menopause and overall health and many doctors may not recognize the link between insomnia and quality of health. If neither doctors nor their patients speak up about sleep issues, the problems will continue to impact women’s health with some possible serious consequences if left untreated.
Giblin wants to see changes in talking about and treating insomnia. Currently many women reach for the sleeping pills without discussing therapy options with their doctors. Understanding the causes of insomnia is important to find the right balance of treatment including behavior modification, hormone therapy, stress reduction, or use of medication.
Giblin offers the following tips for women suffering with insomnia:
•Keep a sleep diary to record number of hours slept, how long it takes to fall asleep, how many times awakened during the night, and feelings both when waking up and during the rest of the day
•Understand that sleep disorders are real health concerns and women have the right to quality treatment options
•Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning; resist sleeping in as this disrupts sleep patterns
•Establish a bedtime routine to help signal the body and mind it is time to rest; use relaxation techniques, reading, taking a warm bath
•Avoid stimulating activities right before bed; exercise earlier in the day
•Keep the bedroom comfortable for a sleep environment; use the bed for sleep or intimacy and avoid taking work to bed
Women suffering from insomnia do not need a survey to know just how important sleep is, but the Sleep Survey proves that many women suffer from sleep disorders. With better awareness and greater understanding, doctors and their menopause patients can put the outdated attitudes towards insomnia to rest.
Great menopause information for many health issues is just a click away at www.redhotmamas.org