Sleep disturbances in menopausal women: Aetiology and practical aspects.

Maturitas. 2015 Jul;81(3):406-9. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.04.017. Epub 2015 May 15.

Sleep disturbances in menopausal women: Aetiology and practical aspects.


Sleep deteriorates with age. The menopause is often a turning point for women’s sleep, as complaints of insomnia increase significantly thereafter. Insomnia can occur as a secondary disorder to hot flashes, mood disorders, medical conditions, psychosocial factors, underlying intrinsic sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) or restless legs syndrome (RLS), or it can be a primary disorder. Since unrecognized OSA can have dramatic health-related consequences, menopausal women complaining of persisting sleep disturbances suggesting primary insomnia or intrinsic sleep disorders should be referred to a sleep specialist for a comprehensive sleep assessment. Patients suffering from primary insomnia will be preferentially treated with non-benzodiazepine hypnotics or melatonin, or with cognitive behavioural therapy. Insomnia related to vasomotor symptoms can be improved with hormone replacement therapy. Gabapentin and isoflavones have also shown efficacy in small series but their precise role has yet to be established. In patients suffering from OSA, non-pharmacological therapy will be applied: continuous positive airway pressure or an oral appliance, according to the severity of the disorder. In the case of RLS, triggering factors must be avoided; dopaminergic agonists are the first-line treatment for moderate to severe disease.

In conclusion, persisting sleep complaints should be addressed in menopausal women, in order to correctly diagnose the specific causal disorder and to prescribe treatments that have been shown to improve sleep quality, quality of life and long-term health status.

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Insomnia; Menopause; Obstructive sleep apnea; Restless legs syndrome; Sleep disorders

About Dr Colin Holloway

Gp interested in natural hormone treatment for men and women of all ages

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