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Are Hot Flashes Causing You Sleeping Problems

Aug 12, 2008
One of the more debilitating symptoms of hot flashes is their impact on our ability to get a good nights sleep. A deep and uninterrupted night's sleep is too long overdue for many postmenopausal women. Many women say they just lie awake, unable to go to sleep or stay asleep, and worrying about being alert for the day ahead.

My grandma was the first person I can remember who used to suffer with insomnia brought on by her hot flashes - she'd explain all the details to us, describing herself as having "eyes like saucers" - which I now understand meant she was wide awake.

A girl friend of mine once suggested to me that the reason women wake during the night is so they can "keep the fire going", referring to a state of affairs during our ancestors time thousands of years ago. Personally I'm not so sure, but even Shakespeare wrote about it in Macbeth where he enlists the services of a physician to treat his wife's insomnia: "Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, Race out the written troubles of the brain; And with-some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuft bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon the heart."

How HRT Has Impacted Insomnia

Yet, even though insomnia has been around for centuries, it seems to have just gotten worse. That's because many women dropped hormone replacement therapy after news that the risks outweigh the benefits. The abrupt withdrawal led to uncomfortable symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes and vaginal dryness - and sleeplessness.

A lot of women are now going through a whole heap of menopause symptoms again, that they had once thought gone for good. But the good news is that there are other solutions to the age old condition, and many of these are now showing to be very effective at not only treating the symptoms, but in protecting our health as well.

Even though insomnia is a fairly common experience for post menopausal women, there isn't a "one size fits all" solution. As with every other symptom of menopause, you need to determine how it's affecting you, and what the best cause of action will be. Don't simply start popping sleeping pills to get through - they only offer short term solutions at best.

These days, women are learning to tailor treatment to their own medical history and risk factors. That often means sitting down with a health care provider and researching all the options carefully. For some, hormone replacement therapy is a reasonable short-term remedy.

Insomnia - Is It Age Related

It's well known that as we get older, our sleeping patterns and habits go through changes. We tend to spend more time in the first two stages of sleep. Stage one is called transitional sleep, and stage two is light sleep. Both are non rapid eye movement (NREM) stages of sleep.

Stages three and four, deep sleep or Delta sleep, are the most restful. Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep, stage five, when dreaming occurs, occupies about 20 percent of sleep time.

As we get older, typically into our fifties, we tend to spend more of our sleep time in stages one and two, with the obvious consequences - sleeping lighter and more prone to be woken up. So we get tired earlier in the day, and tend to wake earlier in the morning. But there are always options open to us to enhance our sleep time, not matter how bad it has got.

The first thing you need to do is figure out your sleep pattern and where the problem lies. Some people have difficulty falling asleep, while others will have problems staying asleep. Your problem may be that you're being woken by experiencing a hot flash, or it may be that you wake up, and then have the hot flush. So make some notes for reference.

The Role of Natural Herbal Remedies

Some herbal products might be beneficial. Some specific herbal menopause remedies could be the answer, or over-the-counter sleep aids might help for awhile, but don't rely on the sleep aids too much - it's never that simple. It's better to create a new sleep pattern, a new routine that signals the body that it's time to sleep.

How To Cure Your Hot Flashes

When hot flashes start to disrupt your sleep, the first thing you need to do is stop worrying about it, and look to what is causing them - find the triggers. Some women find that when they dream, that triggers a hot flash. By finding out what is triggering them, you are now in a much better position to deal with them - rather than taking sleeping medications to make you sleep through it.

It's not a matter of your body working against you, it's that you're finally working with your body.

Sometimes all it takes is changing your routine or diet. Spending a half hour in a darkened, cool room increases sleep hormones like melatonin in the body. Avoid stimulating activities before you go to bed. That hot shower at night can trigger hot flashes. Exercising late in the day might spike adrenaline, making sleep difficult.

Diet also plays a part. Some hot teas - cinnamon tea, for example - might induce hot flashes and should be avoided. Carbohydrates actually increase sleep hormones, so that low-carb diet might be a culprit. Mom was right. Warm milk does induce sleep. But skip the cookies. Wheat toast should be just the ticket to help usher you into dreamland.
About the Author
Stop suffering from hot flashes and insomnia. Wendy Jones shares her experiences for dealing with insomnia and hot flashes on her blog talking about symptoms of menopause
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