According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep apnea – in which breathing stops and starts during sleep – is more common in women than in men.
“All women face sleep problems during their periods, pregnancy, and menopause. These biological changes in the body sometimes disrupt sleep, but it must be noted that poor sleep habits then form a pattern,” said Dr Namita Jain, Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecolgy, Paras Hospitals.
Now, a study — published in the journal PLOS ONE — has also suggested that the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea is known to be higher in women after menopause, adding that the condition is linked with the low levels of estrogen and progesterone. “The female sex hormones are crucial for health and disease, and especially after menopause, the hormone status should be considered to develop holistic treatment strategies,” the authors of the study noted.
Explaining the condition further, Dr Namita said most women suffer from sleep apnea due to changes in hormones. “During perimenopause, i.e. irregular periods before menopause and during menopause, there is a decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones from the women’s ovaries. It is both these hormones that are responsible for promoting sleep. This change in hormones, sometimes, causes the problem of sleep apnea. In addition, low estrogen levels can make you more susceptible to the surrounding environment and other factors that disrupt sleep,” she told indianexpress.com.
“It may be prudent to screen women for sleep disturbances to prevent cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea in women affects not only cardiovascular health but also blood pressure,” Dr Namita added.
The authors of the study suggested adjusting female sex hormones might be a strategy to decrease the high prevalence and associated morbidity of obstructive sleep apnea. However, they said that further longitudinal studies are required to confirm the findings.
Sometimes the problem of sleep apnea increases with age. Although there are many reasons for sleep problems in women, sleep apnea is seen more during hormonal changes. According to Dr. namita below are the symptoms of sleep apnea:
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause and perimenopause in which women sweat profusely and have a rapid heartbeat. These symptoms make you sleepy at night. This can lead to trouble falling asleep once you wake up.
Sleep problems after menopause
Menopause brings many changes in the physical activities of women. About 20% of women also experience depression along with sleep problems during this time. However, hormonal changes are not the only reason. A stressful lifestyle can also be a reason for this. Menopausal women are two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women before menopause.
Sleep problems during periods
Many women also struggle with sleep problems during their periods. This is especially so in women who have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is a particularly severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
How can sleep apnea be treated in women?
If you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause (e.g., insomnia, sleep disturbances, sweating), you should consult a doctor. Along with this, you should also improve your sleeping habits, suggested Dr Namita.
The doctor list the following tips for to promote good sleep
Keep your room temperature low, as hot flashes can lead to overheating. By doing this, you will feel better and you will be able to sleep well. Also, make your room as quiet and secure as possible. An atmosphere of peace will also keep your mind calm, which will help you sleep soundly.
Reduce your intake of spicy and hot foods. Spicy foods create excitement, which can lead to sleeplessness.
Wear comfortable clothes
Wear lightweight and comfortable clothing while sleeping. The more comfortable clothes you wear, the better it will help you sleep.
Eat light food before going to bed and stay away from substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee. These things increase the problem of sleeplessness.
Keeping the sleeping place clean and smelling good also helps in getting good sleep. You will sleep well in a clean place.
Focus on exercise
Focus on relaxation exercises such as meditation and yoga. Yoga and exercise help to relieve stress from the mind, which will help you sleep well.