‘Menopause can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder which can have negative effects on your health’, says a city doctor.
Sleep apnea begins with partial blockage of the upper airway and leads to pauses in breathing while sleeping.
As the condition aggravates, it takes the form of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in which the pauses in breathing become quite frequent, amounting to 100 times in a night.
The condition is most common in women and worsens in the post-menopause period as the phase marks the end of the reproductive period of a woman and brings about a lot of hormonal changes – physical and psychological – in them.
“The levels of estrogen and progesterone (hormones which protect the airways from collapsing) released in the body declines during menopause, as a result of which, women become more prone to contracting obstructive sleep apnea in this phase”, said Vivek Nangia, Director and HOD Pulmonology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj.
According to a recent study, 0.6 percent of women in their pre-menopausal stage suffered from OSA, while women in post-menopausal stage (who did not undergo the hormone replacement surgery) suffered from the same with a hike of 5.5 percent.
Further, OSA puts post-menopausal women at a high risk of developing high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Such women usually remain awake at night and become lethargic as well as tend to fall asleep during the day.
In addition, the prolonged periods of uncomfortable, disturbed sleep cause tiredness, irritability and mood swings, which may also hamper their relationships.
“As many as 61 percent post-menopausal women reported symptoms of insomnia”, Nangia added.
Menopause also reduces the focus and attention span at work and may yield them unproductive. Symptoms of OSA in menopausal women include hot flushes, increased body temperatures and night sweats because of reduced levels of estrogen, loud snoring, choking in their sleep, dry mouth at night, frequent urination at night and grinding of teeth.
“It is important to educate everyone about the symptoms of OSA as it can go unnoticed and cause major medical complications later”, Nangia noted.
Various forms of treatment that are available for women with OSA include losing weight, avoiding alcohol four-six hours before going to bed.
Also, sleeping on sides rather than on the stomach or back can help in improving the situation.
“The most common medical treatment includes the use of nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – a device to prevent the airways from collapsing at night and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – wherein estrogen and progesterone are artificially introduced into the body to help reduce OSA”, Nangia said.