Women entering menopause aren’t sleeping, which is bad for the heart

Ladies, we’re not sleeping.

A study that looked at 2015 data from the National Center for Health Statistics found that 56 percent of women ages 40 to 59 who were perimenopausal slept less than seven hours a day. Of their premenopausal  and postmenopausal counterparts, 32.5 percent and 40.5 percent were sleeping less than seven hours a day.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Hormone changes and sleep apnea from menopause could be the reason. Shutterstock

And once we are postmenopausal, we have trouble falling asleep 27.1 percent and staying asleep 35.9 percent. More than half  of us (55.1 percent) woke up not feeling well-rested.

Those are a lot of years of not sleeping, not falling asleep, not sleeping through the night and not waking up feeling rested.

Why does any of this matter?

Of course, you’re not at your best when you’re exhausted. We know we don’t make good decisions when operating a motor vehicle.

But do you know that not getting enough sleep and not getting good quality of sleep can triple the risk for a heart attack?

Dr. Stanley Wang, Heart Hospital of Austin

Dr. Stanley Wang, a cardiologist and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Heart Hospital of Austin, likens lack of sleep to smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. “It’s a major cardiac risk factor,” he says.

The changes in hormone level during menopause is a double threat to our hearts. We aren’t sleeping as much or as well, and menopause also increases the amount of plaque build up in the arteries, increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Wang says, we think of heart disease as a mostly male disorder. “That’s partially true before menopause, but then in menopause women catch up.”

One thing that happens as we age is the increase occurrence of sleep apnea. The lack of progesterone causes us to not sleep as well, and it causes the muscles around the airway to become more lax.

Wang encourages women who are not waking up feeling rested to do a sleep study. Those no longer have to be done in a hospital setting. Now a machine can be sent to you and it can record your sleep in your own home.

He also recommends practicing good sleep hygiene:

Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day.

Avoid caffeine and exercise at night.

Avoid smart phones at night because the lighting actually wakes you up.

Avoid large amounts of food or fluid late at night.

Don’t take naps.

Take a hot shower or bath right before bed.

Keep your bedroom temperature cool.

And for those of you that think it’s your bladder that is causing you to wake up at night. It’s not, Wang says. You might actually have been awakened by sleep apnea and not your bladder. He recommends talking to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea if you have this or other sleep problems, such as snoring or daytime sleepiness.