An article in WebMD reports on a research study showing that difficulty sleeping was the most common complaint among post-menopausal women. The study recruited 110 women and asked them to rate the severity or persistence of the following symptoms: hot flashes, day sweats, night sweats, vaginal dryness, sleep difficulties, mood issues and forgetfulness. Trouble sleeping came in as the most common complaint, followed by forgetfulness, hot flashes and irritability. Based on what I’ve been talking about from my sleep-breathing paradigm, this is not too surprising. I’ve always said that many of the common symptoms of menopause are sleep-breathing disturbances. The one missing link in all the studies, commentaries and articles on menopause is the inability for women to breathe properly at night as a direct result of increasing tongue muscle relaxation during menopause.
Progesterone is one hormone that has been shown to promote tongue muscle tone, and the slow decrease during the menopause years can produce the common symptoms of menopause. So it’s not a direct result of dropping menopause levels, but worsening upper airway patency leading to more frequent micro-obstruction and arousals, preventing deep sleep. I’ve written in the past about young men coming to me complaining about night sweats, hot-flashes, mood swings, irritability, weight gain and insomnia. These men were slowly gaining weight, progressing up the sleep-breathing continuum. The gradual narrowing of their upper airways due to increased fat deposits in the throat can lead to a generalized nervous system reaction, leading the night sweats, hot-flashes, mood-swings, etc. So as you can see, many of the common symptoms of menopause are not exclusive to women.