Women's Health

Menopausal Hormones May Cause Sleep Apnea

What is Menopause?

Although weight is the most common of the risk factors for sleep apnea, there are others and most recently researchers have come to believe that the loss of hormones with the onset of menopause may be one of them.

Menopause is the time in a woman's life where her body stops producing eggs for fertilization and she is no longer able to get pregnant. The start of the process is called perimenopause and is characterized by the lowered production of the hormonal regulators estrogen and progesterone. During the period between perimenopause and menopause, women will experience a range of sometimes very uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, fibromyalgia, depression and arthritis. All of these symptoms but particularly depression may lead to difficulty in sleeping. Research has shown the menopause can significantly alter not only sleep patterns, but what has been termed sleep architecture, the stages of sleep that finally lead to restful REM, sleep throughout the night. Hormonal shifts also cause changes in the core body temperature that leads to hot flash awakenings during the course of the night.