The women I talk with and treat as patients want to understand how menopause may affect their sleep and their health. Of course, they also want to know what to do throughout menopause to sleep, feel, and perform at their best.
There are some basic tenets that we all know contribute to healthy living, all of which are important during the menopausal transition:
• Eating healthfully
• Managing stress
• Maintaining healthy relationships and social connections
• Staying intellectually stimulated
• Sleeping well
These core practices can go a long way to helping women transition through menopause feeling good, sleeping soundly, performing at their best, and achieving the quality of life they desire for themselves. Still, even with these healthy routines in place, many women experience symptoms of menopause that disrupt sleep and daily performance, and interfere with quality of daily life.
I’ll talk here about how acupuncture can help both sleeplessness and other menopause symptoms.
Sleep and menopause symptoms can influence and often aggravate each other. For example, short on sleep, you’re more sensitive to pain, and also to mood swings and stress. Hot flashes may make you more prone to obstructive sleep apnea.
Every woman is different, with her own symptoms, her own individual health issues and risks, her own sense of what forms of treatment make sense for her. This is not medical advice; it is a starting guide for a conversation with your physician, to talk about how to best address menopause symptoms—including sleep.
I recommend acupuncture to a number of my patients with insomnia and other sleep problems. For women in menopause who are having trouble sleeping, I’m particularly inclined to recommend acupuncture. That’s because this ancient practice of Chinese traditional medicine can help improve sleep as well as other disruptive, unwelcome symptoms of menopause.
Acupuncture stimulates blood flow throughout the body, and its practitioners say it restores balance to the body’s energy, or Qi. Frequently helpful in relieving pain, acupuncture is also used to treat a broad range of conditions, from high blood pressure to anxiety and depression, PMS to digestive conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, and substance addictions.
Scientific studies show acupuncture can work effectively to improve sleep in women in perimenopause and postmenopause. A recent analysis of research found acupuncture treatment is linked to increases in estrogen levels in the blood, and a reduction in sleep problems. (Remember, declining estrogen is associated with more frequently disrupted sleep.) Another recent study found acupuncture may improve both sleep quality and overall quality of life for post-menopausal women who have insomnia. Insomnia and other sleep disorders become more common in women during the menopausal transition.
Acupuncture can be effective for other symptoms of menopause, according to research. A recent study found that six months of regular acupuncture sessions was linked to a significant reduction in hot flashes and night sweats. Women who had 20 sessions of acupuncture over six months saw their hot flashes and night sweats decrease by more than a third, compared to women who didn’t receive the treatment. Acupuncture’s benefits had some staying power, too: the study found the improvements to hot flashes and night sweats lasted for at least six months beyond treatment. Research has also shown acupuncture may improve bone structure and bone function, and could help women in menopause guard against bone loss and osteoporosis.
Acupuncture isn’t the only mind-body therapy that can improve sleeplessness and symptoms of menopause. There’s a growing body of research showing that other mind-body practices can help protect and improve women’s sleep and health, and address specific symptoms of menopause. Research shows that mindset can play a significant role in managing symptoms of menopause. Mind-body treatments including Tai Chi, yoga, and qigong offer women a number of benefits and protections, including:
• Reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, a contributor to type 2 diabetes
• Improving and managing a woman’s cardiovascular response to stress
• Calming the nervous system
• Strengthening the body, improving muscle strength, balance, and flexibility, and improving bone structure
• Relieving muscle and joint pain and stiffness
• Improving sleep quality, reducing the symptoms of insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep
Next week, I’ll look specifically at some of these mind/body therapy activities and explain their impact on sleep during menopause.
This content was originally published here.