Menopause is often known as “the change” because of how it can disrupt women’s hormone levels. These changes can affect everything from the hair and skin to even how the body processes glucose, which can also affect sleep patterns. Little was known about the relationship between sleep disturbance and menopause until study results tackling the link were published last year in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The findings appear in the article “Sleep-related symptoms of midlife women with and without type 2 diabetes mellitus.”
The primary hormones affected by menopause, estrogen and progesterone, are known to change how the cells in the body respond to insulin. Researchers suspected that the fluctuation in these hormones brought on by menopause could put women at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The changes in hormone levels can also cause sleep changes. This is due to night sweats and hot flashes, which are experienced by 42 percent of premenopausal and 60 percent of postmenopausal women.
Women with diabetes experience more intense menopausal symptoms, including insomnia and frequent nighttime urination.
During the study, researchers analyzed data from two larger Internet surveys to show that sleep-related symptoms of menopause were much higher in women with type 2 diabetes than in menopausal women without the condition.
Dr. Darin Ward, a Dallas, Texas, orthodontist, treats men and women living with sleep apnea, another known contributor to developing diabetes.
“When the body does not reach the level of sleep in which hormones are regulated, insulin is not produced, and the cells of the body cannot effectively process blood sugar,” Ward said.
This means the chance of developing diabetes goes up.
“Both men and women with sleep apnea have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those without the condition,” Ward said.
Sleep apnea signs include persistent snoring, choking or gasping for breath during sleep, as well as daytime fatigue and mood swings.
“Other signs of sleep apnea include difficulty concentrating, irritability and feeling tired no matter how much sleep you’ve gotten,” Ward said.
In addition to diabetes, people with untreated sleep apnea are at risk of other chronic conditions, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
“Sleep apnea has been connected to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and changes in cognitive ability, too,” Ward said.
Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Type 2 diabetes and sleep problems in midlife women.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2019.