Recently, Oceans2003 had the opportunity to speak with hormone expert, Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph. about the effects of menopause on a woman’s sleep cycle. The founder of Women’s Health America and co-founder of Madison Pharmacy Associates discussed solutions to help women overcome menopause-induced insomnia.
Oceans2003: Thank you for speaking with us today, Marla Ahlgrimm. In more than thirty years working with women’s health, you’ve helped women deal with many issues related to menopause. How is a woman’s sleep affected?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: That’s a great question. Insomnia affects up to 40 percent of American adults and for women going through menopause, a drop in hormones, especially estrogen, can exacerbate it. One of the first symptoms of falling estrogen is sleep disturbance. This can occur 10 years in advance of menopause, when a woman is in her early 40’s. It’s common for menopausal women to have difficulty falling asleep, wake frequently, and have trouble falling back asleep. For many women, hot flushing and night sweats caused by a gradual decline in estrogen and progesterone can cause chronic insomnia. Other causes of insomnia can include thyroid disorders, certain medications, changes in blood sugar, lack of exercise, and excess stress.
Oceans2003: Can menopausal stress also account for some cases of insomnia?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: Definitely. Depression, anxiety, and stress are three major symptoms of menopause and all three are causal factors in cases of insomnia. The stress and anxiety of not being able to sleep can actually lead to something called “learned insomnia,” where the stress causes the insomnia. It’s a vicious cycle.
Oceans2003: What about over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: While these can help restore sleep short term, they often treat the symptoms without working on the underlying cause. Doctors recommend using of prescription medications for short periods of time. After around three weeks, your body begins to build up a tolerance to many medications for sleep, decreasing their effectiveness.
Oceans2003: What about natural over-the-counter medications like melatonin?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: Melatonin is a very popular sleep aid. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body and is available over-the-counter without a prescription.
Oceans2003: How does a patient know if her lack of sleep is a problem?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: One German study showed that women require an hour to an hour and a half more sleep per night than men or about eight to nine hours. Many women average less than seven. Over time, even slight sleep deprivation can have effects on short-term memory, ability to concentrate, cause daytime fatigue, and mood changes. While everyone suffers occasional bouts of insomnia, when sleep deprivation occurs for more than three weeks, it’s time to see a doctor.
Oceans2003: How does Marla Ahlgrimm help women overcome insomnia during menopause?
Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph.: When self-care isn’t enough, hormone therapy can help. Not only will estrogen help manage hot flashes and night sweats, bioidentical progesterone, your body’s natural calming hormone, can induce sleep without the side effects associated with prescription sleep medications.
Marla Ahlgrimm, pharmacist, has devoted her professional career to women and their health. For the past three decades, Marla Ahlgrimm has worked to develop natural or bioidentical hormone treatments. The founder and CEO of Women’s Health America, Ahlgrimm has helped more than 300,000 women find relief from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), peri-menopause, and menopause using low dose, natural hormones. In 2011, Marla Ahlgrimm sold Madison Pharmacy Associates, the first pharmacy in the nation to specialize women’s health. For more information about Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph. go online to www.marlaahlgrimmonline.com