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Menopause related sleep disorders

  [ 153 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By PS Eichling and J Sahni • • June 25, 2007

Journal: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2005 Jul 15;1(3):291-300.

Authors and affiliation: Eichling PS, Sahni J. University of Arizona College of Medicine, Sleep Disorders Center, Tucson, Arizona, USA. [E-mail: ]

PMID: 17566192

Sleep difficulty is one of the hallmarks of menopause. Following recent studies showing no cardiac benefit and increased breast cancer, the question of indications for hormonal therapy has become even more pertinent. Three sets of sleep disorders are associated with menopause:

  • Insomnia/depression,
  • Sleep disordered breathing,
  • And Fibromyalgia.

The primary predictor of disturbed sleep architecture is the presence of vasomotor symptoms. This subset of women has lower sleep efficiency and more sleep complaints. The same group is at higher risk of insomnia and depression.

The "domino theory" of sleep disruption leading to insomnia followed by depression has the most scientific support. Estrogen itself may also have an antidepressant as well as a direct sleep effect. Treatment of insomnia in responsive individuals may be a major remaining indication for hormone therapy.

Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) increases markedly at menopause for reasons that include both weight gain and unclear hormonal mechanisms. Due to the general under-recognition of SDB, health care providers should not assume sleep complaints are due to vasomotor related insomnia/depression without considering SDB.

Fibromyalgia has gender, age and probably hormonal associations. Sleep complaints are almost universal in FM. There are associated polysomnogram (PSG) findings.

FM patients have increased central nervous system levels of the nociceptive neuropeptide substance P (SP) and lower serotonin levels resulting in a lower pain threshold to normal stimuli. High SP and low serotonin have significant potential to affect sleep and mood.

Treatment of sleep itself seems to improve, if not resolve FM.

Menopausal sleep disruption can exacerbate other pre-existing sleep disorders including RLS [restless legs syndrome] and circadian disorders.

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