Millions of women experience disturbed sleep at the time of menopause. For most, this is a change while for others, who have had one problem or another with sleep during their lives, sleep disturbance becomes even worse.
Not getting a good night's sleep affects between 30% and 40% of menopausal women.
Understanding the cause of menopausal sleep disturbance has been the subject of many scientific studies. Although findings differ and are sometimes contradictory, estrogen deficiency due to menopause is the most likely root cause.
Women experiencing sleep disturbance, sometimes referred to as "sleep misery," consider it the most bothersome of all the menopausal symptoms.
There are different kinds of sleep disturbance. Symptomatic women studied at Yale typically described the following: " I have no trouble falling asleep. About one and a half to two hours later I wake up feeling wide-awake. Sometimes I feel hot. Sometimes I feel cold. Sometimes I'm sweating. Often, I feel anxious and my heart may be pounding. In just a few minutes I fall back to sleep but go through the same thing about two hours later. It can happen three times in one night." The Yale study found that sleep disturbance was the most common menopausal symptom and the one which the women said most affected their ability to function at home or in the workplace.
Studies of whether or not a hot flash is what wakens a woman have mixed findings. In some women the two symptoms appear connected while in others they do not.
Hot flashes involve skin blood flow and brain reactivity. During hot flashes blood vessels in the skin dilate and the skin temperature goes up. The increase in skin temperature stimulates the part of the brain that controls body temperature. Estrogen deficiency affects both the part of the brain involved in temperature control and reactivity of arteries in the skin. In our studies, an increase in skin blood flow and a rise in skin temperature, were recorded about 18 to 20 seconds before the woman herself stated she felt she was having a hot flush.