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January 18, 2002

Table of Contents

T Introduction
T Alternative Approaches

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Topic Centers
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Women's Health

  • Library
  • Drug Lookup

  • Articles
  • Menopause and Sex: Good News and Bad
  • Menopause: What Type Is Your 'Change of Life'?
  • Hot (News) Flash: Different Ethnic Group, Different Menopause Symptoms

  • Article Level: Advanced
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    Sleep Soundly Through Menopause

    Carol Milano, Medical Writer
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    Photo Why are women over 50 tossing and turning? It's a combination of changing hormones, social stresses of midlife, physical conditions like arthritis, and the fact that people sleep less soundly with age. But you don't need to suffer through sleep problems. Herbal, prescription, alternative, and behavioral remedies can bring better rest.

    Night sweats (hot flashes after dark) awaken 36% of menopausal women, a recent National Sleep Foundation poll found. In studies, estrogen alone or in combination helps eliminate breathing problems as serious as sleep apnea, and other sleep complaints. Women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have fewer hot flashes or nocturnal awakenings.


    Herbs and Vitamins

    Women not on HRT can try vitamin E, which reduces both the number and strength of hot flashes by about 40%, according to the Hormone Foundation.

    Several studies found black cohosh safely reduces night sweats and weariness, with no side effects. In Germany, the non-habit-forming plant has been used for 40 years without problem; the government's Commission E approved it for menopausal symptoms. (Without long-term studies, use of the estrogen-like herb is advised for only 6 months at a time.)

    Most women get black cohosh in a supplement, Remifemin, which also contains hypericum (similar to St. John's Wort), widely used in Germany for depression, nervous unrest, and sleep disturbance. Together, they may balance a woman's sleep cycle.

    Valerian has long been recognized in Europe as a safe herbal sedative. It doesn't disrupt normal sleep or produce a "hangover." While it may take a few weeks to have an effect, the use of valerian during the day may cause drowsiness, so be careful if driving, warns Charlotte Gyllenhaal of the University of Illinois/Chicago College of Pharmacy.

    By reducing anxiety, kava--another herbal sedative--may help with sleep after several weeks of use. Don't consume large doses of kava for a long time, because it can cause skin problems, Gyllenhaal notes. Take all herbs in standardized doses.

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