The Symptom: No Matter How Much You Sleep You Don’t Feel Well-Rested
Likely Cause: The flu
Worse-Case Scenario: Sleep disorder
Don’t dismiss daily fatigue as an inevitable consequence of aging. Feeling tired is a common symptom of two of the most prevalent sleep interrupters for midlife women: sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes an itchy, twitchy sensation in the legs that makes it difficult to stay still and, as a result, fall asleep. "Many people think sleep apnea only affects overweight men, but it’s nearly as common in women after menopause," says Lisa Shives, MD, of Northshore Sleep Medicine, in Evanston, Illinois. Like sleep apnea, RLS often worsens as you get older.
OTHER SIGNS IT MAY BE SERIOUS: If you’re a snorer and you wake up feeling as if you’ve been hit by a truck, chances are you have sleep apnea. The condition relaxes the muscles of the throat, making it difficult to get sufficient air, and the lack of oxygen triggers mini awakenings-sometimes hundreds of times a night. Other signs of sleep apnea: waking with a headache and sore throat; experiencing memory or concentration problems; feeling irritable or depressed. Fatigue-related symptoms such as irritability are also common with RLS.
WHEN TO ACT: If the symptoms of either disorder persist for more than a month, see your internist, who may be able to diagnose the problem based on your description. If not, she may refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation. Sleep apnea is treated with a continuous positive airway pressure device, a mask that fits over your nose and/or mouth during sleep and helps open airways with gentle air pressure. RLS is treated with dopamine-like drugs, but some sufferers can control symptoms by limiting caffeine, walking regularly and massaging or stretching their legs before bedtime. Practicing yoga or meditation may relieve some symptoms. Likewise, lifestyle changes may ease the effects of sleep apnea: Drop pounds if you’re overweight, avoid alcohol, quit smoking, and try to sleep on your side, a position that sometimes reduces symptoms.