Menopause brings additional complications to sleep disturbances

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Women’s sleep in midlife can be influenced by general aging and menopause — often at the same time — but health care providers can learn to spot differences to more effectively treat patients. Sleep disturbances are common for aging men and women, but hormonal changes brought on by menopause are unique and can require different, or additional, forms of treatment.

Sleep changes with age

From sleep interruption to early sleep and wake times, changes in sleep begin in midlife and continue to progress as people age.

“The largest difference [with age] is the inability to stay asleep,” said Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, chief of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “[Older people] have more awakenings … and also wake up earlier than desired. That is true for both sexes. Some individuals also have difficulty falling asleep, but with age, the factor is really difficulty staying asleep.”

Although these sleep disturbances begin to become more common around age 55 years, they progress over time.

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