Women who are going through perimenopause - the precursor to menopause - will likely be confronted by sleep disorders at some point in their middle-aged life. With all the responsibilities to take care of between work, family, and friends, it can be difficult to deal with these common conditions in a positive way.
Those disorders listed below - the most frequently experienced - are typically due to high levels of stress, excessive caffeine intake, and obesity. Menopausal hormonal imbalance will make you much more sensitive to these triggers and prompt more frequent sleep disruption.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by not being able to fall asleep, sleeping only for short periods of time, lying awake in the middle of the night, and waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep. There are two types of insomnia: situational insomnia typically lasts one day to four weeks; chronic insomnia, on the other hand, lasts more than a year. Unfortunately, around 80% of Americans experience situational insomnia, while 12% are reported to have chronic insomnia. It can put a damper on your life by causing fatigue and mental fog.
Apnea comes from the Greek word meaning “not breathing”; hence, sleep apnea is when your sleep is interrupted because your airway becomes closed off. This can happen up to 30 times each hour overnight. Sometimes, it is only a few seconds, but other times, you may stop breathing for two minutes, which makes the disorder dangerous. It disturbs your sleep because the brain gets an alert that it is not receiving oxygen and you wake up, often gasping, to restore your breath. Although sometimes you can sleep through this and not notice, at other times, it can be very frightening.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Many women report strange sensations in their legs, which is actually a sign of restless leg syndrome. What is felt is a tingling, burning, and crawling sensation that is extremely uncomfortable and can wake you up. Although it is not necessarily painful, it can cause you to toss and turn for hours. Individuals feel the uncontrollable desire to move their legs, which can relieve the feeling initially but thereafter keep you awake.
This condition usually affects individuals in the waking hours, and is a disruption in sleep regulation. Those with this sleeping disorder will endure excessive sleepiness throughout the day, and also have unexplainable and unforeseen episodes of falling asleep. These episodes can occur mid-activity or conversation, and are described by many patients as an “attack.” It can be scary for the sufferer as well as those who are with them.
Whether you're unable to fall asleep, gasp for air in the middle of the night, feel mysterious sensations, or fall asleep mid-activity, sleep disorders can be aggravating and quite scary at times. The symptoms can be distressing and leave you exhausted. Fortunately, these sleeping disorders are common among middle-aged women and can often be alleviated by lifestyle changes, counseling, herbal medicine, or medications.
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Sleep Disorders. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sleepdisorders.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Adult Sleep Disorders. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://umm.edu/programs/sleep/health/sleep-disorders/adult#d
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2012). Narcolepsy. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/narcolepsy