A complaint at menopause is that sleep is interrupted by hot flushes, sweats and often worry and anxiety as things go round and round in our mind.
Instead of allowing our body to get on with maintaining good health we are providing the conditions for it to start declining. Research from the University of Warwick indicates that sleep problems are associated with worse memory and executive function as we age.
This was a large scale analysis of sleep and cognitive (brain function) data from 3,968 men and 4,821 women who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Participants reported on the quality and quantity of sleep over the period of a month.
How your age affects your sleep quality
The study showed that there is an association between both quality and duration of sleep and brain function which changes with age. In adults aged between 50 and 64 years of age, short sleep (less than 6hrs per night) and long sleep (more than 8hrs per night) were associated with lower brain function scores. By contrast, in older adults (65-89 years) lower brain function scores were only observed in long sleepers.
If you are suffering from night sweats then the idea of 6 hours uninterrupted sleep may seem like a Utopian dream, but according to Dr Michelle A Miller 6-8 hours of sleep per night is particularly important for optimum brain function, as well as being optimal for physical health, including lowest risk of developing obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
If you are under 65, then this means that sleep quality did not have any significant association with brain function scores, but sadly if over 65 there was a significant relationship between sleep quality and the observed scores.
Sleep is important for good health and mental wellbeing and interestingly the researchers suggest that as a way of helping to delay the decline in brain function seen with age, or slow or prevent the rapid decline that leads to dementia. sleep quality is key. So rather than drugs to help slow cognitive decline, non-pharmacologica simple improvements in sleep may provide an alternative low-cost and more accessible Public Health intervention.
One of the things often commented on at menopause is the ‘fogginess’ that can accompany it and this is certainly not helped by a lack of sleep.
Many women find supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone to be helpful for this and as progesterone is a relaxant, it also can benefit sleep issues.