Sleep-Deprived in Menopause

Rise and shine. Morning exercise is good for sleepless nights in postmenopausal women. Exercise could help set circadian rhythms, or the body's internal clock, which in turn regulates sleep-inducing hormones such as melatonin.

By Carlin Flora, published on November 13, 2003 - last reviewed on June 10, 2008

Stretching and moderate exercise can help overweight,
postmenopausal women fall asleep more easily; but only if performed in
the morning hours, according to a study published in the journal
Sleep.

"Postmenopausal women commonly report sleep problems," says Anne
McTiernan of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Exercise
may help to alleviate these problems, as long as it is performed early in
the day."

The researchers found that women who exercised at a moderate rate
for at least a half an hour each morning, seven days per week, had less
trouble falling asleep than those who exercised less. Evening exercisers
did not experience the same positive effects on sleep quality,
though.

Lead author Shelley Tworoger, of Harvard University Medical
School, says a possible explanation of the finding is that morning
exercise could help set circadian rhythms, or the bodies' internal clock,
which in turn regulates sleep-inducing hormones such as melatonin. "Or it
could be that exercising at night increases body temperature, whereas
body temperature must go down to induce sleep," she says. "But neither of
these hypotheses have been proven."

The National Sleep Foundation has reported that 20 percent of
menopausal and postmenopausal women sleep less than six hours per night
during the work week, while only 12 percent of premenopausal women (with
the exception of pregnant women) sleep less than six hours. Lower levels
of estrogen may cause sleep problems among older women, either directly,
or indirectly. A lack of estrogen can cause sleep-disturbing hot flashes
and night sweats, Tworoger says.

Sleep deprivation can cause women to suffer from memory disorders,
concentration problems, anxiety, fatigue and muscle aches.