In a recent study, medical researchers tried to find out if menstrual cycle and hormonal levels are related with sleeping problems. To pursue this, they have a group of women from 43 to 53 years old recorded whether they had trouble sleeping. By doing this, they will determine if menopause process can really affect sleeping quality in some way.
The investigation based on monitoring the amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone in charge of controlling several processes within women reproduction, including follicle-stimulation and it's closely related with controlling progesterone hormones. So, they compare if the fluctuation of this hormone can disturb in some way the regular sleeping habits within the group of women describe above.
The women were classified in two main groups, perimenopausal women (the ones who were prior to cessation of menstrual cycles) and postmenopausal (the ones who do not have menstrual cycles for more than twelve months).
As far as we know, the natural process of menopause consists of a series of changes produced by the fluctuation of estrogen hormones. In fact, the declination of the amounts of this hormone produces a chain effect which includes a flux in LH and progesterone hormones.
The group of women who reported the most sleeping problems was the one in the transition from perimenopause to postmenopause. In fact, women of Caucasian ethnicity showed a greater sensibility to vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, psychosocial symptoms like stress, and depression. This ends up in a lower quality of life less triggered by low physical activity, smoking, and frequent cases of arthritis.
Most reported sleeping disturbances reported by the women participating in the study:
- Increased latency to sleep onset
- Increased nighttime awakenings
- Nighttime waking episodes are longer
- Increased fragmentation of sleep
- Increased daytime sleepiness and fatigue
The investigation concluded that the most trouble sleeping was observed at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle. But also the women with in postmenopausal stage also showed alterations in sleep. The investigators emphasized that the sleep problems do contribute to fatigue and muscle aches, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, and depression.
However, the investigation considered that the sleep problems are closely related with other menopause symptoms, which disturb the regular sleeping habits. Hot flashes, depression, and anxiety are the most common attributed causes of disrupting the normal bedtime habits.
The medical researchers also pointed out that a group of these women considered taking phytoestrogens (estrogen plant substances) supplements because they may have some mitigating effects on hot flashes. Among, these the most used are products based on soy because they are rich in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are also available in over-the-counter nutritional supplements like ginseng, extract of red clover, and black cohosh.