Menopause is a normal and expected part of the female life cycle and it brings physical, social & psychological changes It’s that part of life when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs, female sex hormones decrease, and menstruation ends. This occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average of 50 to 52 years. After the age of 55, it is considered late menopause. Early or premature menopause occurs before the age of 40. The word menopause refers to a specific date: the last time a woman had her period. On the other hand, the climacteric is related to the changes experienced by women before, during, and after. Menopause is preceded by perimenopause, where alterations in the menstrual rhythm, delays, and missed periods can alternate. Followed by post-menopause, a stage where the ovarian involution started in perimenopause ends. And a new state of balance is reached. Aside from the typical hot flashes and night sweats, many women report other symptoms.
The most common are sleeping disorders. 63 out of every 100 menopausal women report having trouble sleeping.(1)
How are sleeping disorders and menopause connected?
1- Vasomotor symptoms (VMS): 50-70% of women have hot flashes and night sweats during the menopausal transition. This is associated with decreased estrogen levels (female sex hormones). The sudden heat episodes and perspiration, coupled with palpitations, cause frequent nocturnal awakenings.
2- Stress and/or depression, anxiety, fears, and other emotional factors that hinder your rest. Estrogens play an important role in soothing the Central Nervous System and are responsible for the feeling of well-being. When they decrease, there is a decrease in energy. Neuro-psychic manifestations such as fatigue, dejection, lack of concentration, anxiety, irritability, and aggressiveness may appear.
Hormone replacement therapy or HRT has been used extensively to treat menopausal symptoms. Usually involves pills with some synthetic hormones (estrogen and progestin) to replace the natural ones women stop producing. In 2002 researchers found that HRT can have negative side effects, placing women’s health in danger: higher risk of breast cancer, venous thrombosis, cardiovascular accidents, pulmonary embolisms, and so on. If insomnia doesn’t respond well to HRT, sedative-hypnotic drugs (sleeping pills) are also prescribed. However, because of their toxicity, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine did not approve these medications for long-term usage. As a result, the focus shifted to reshape bedtime habits. For all of this, non-pharmacological therapies are becoming more popular by the day.
Let’s talk about remedies that don’t involve the use of any pharmaceutical drugs. For any sleep-related disorder, in his book Sleep Medicine, Dr Michael S. Aldrich advises adopting sleep hygiene behaviours into your lifestyle, such as:
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day
- Take a warm or hot shower before going to sleep
- Natural infusions such as chamomile, linden, valerian.
- Do not use the bed to read, watch television, argue.
- Not doing strong physical or mental activities before sleeping
- Eat dinner at least two hours before bed
- Drop or reduce the consumption of coffee, alcohol, tobacco
- When turning off the light, leave work and worries out
- Keep the room dark, cool, quiet.
- Make love to increase the release of endorphins and achieve greater relaxation.
For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners and Acupuncturist have gain experience treating symptoms related to all phases of the female climacteric. Nowadays, you can reach numerous articles and research papers on the web, where western science recognizes TCM advantages to help women and men cope with many different health disorders. The International Menopause Society released a study in 2013. They did 5 weeks of Acupuncture sessions on 18 postmenopausal women aged 50-67 years old having diﬃculty falling asleep and sleeping steadily. This study´s conclusion reads like this: “acupuncture is beneficial in enhancing sleep quality and quality of life in postmenopausal women with insomnia.”(2). The study also found evidence of increased mental well-being in patients
Acupuncture helps with a variety of menopausal symptoms, including:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
Back to insomnia, Dr Huan Yu and colleagues from the Sleep and Wake Disorders Center at Huashan Hospital, after their conclusive findings titled their research “Acupuncture Improves Peri-menopausal Insomnia”. They tested 76 peri-menopausal women with insomnia disorder applying ten acupuncture sessions over 3 weeks in the following points:
- Bilateral Shenshu (BL 23) Ganshu (18 Bladder)
- Qimen (14 Liver)
- Jingmen (25 Gallbladder)
Acupuncture significantly improved sleep efficiency and total sleep time, associated with less wake after sleep. (3) Acupuncturists insert wonderful needles into the skin at strategic points on the body. The target is re-establishing and balancing the flow of life force in your body. This force is known as “Chi” or “Qi”. When Qi is not blocked and flows in the right way, a state of well-being is reached. Another research with a larger sample of patients published in the journal of the North American Menopause Society, in February 2017 showed evidence that Acupuncture decreased the frequency of VMS. 209 women joined the study, 79 of them measured a decrease in the number of hot flashes and night sweats by 47% in the first 8 weeks of the 6-month study (4)
The evidence is in plain sight when it comes to the therapeutic potential of acupuncture treatments for menopause-associated insomnia. The researchers suggested that acupuncture represents a safe and useful non-pharmacological intervention option for improving sleep quality.
If you are going through this phase in your life, consider a consultation with a qualified TCM practitioner, the results can improve your quality of life. The best of all? It´s 100% natural.