1. Melatonin is a hormone that:
a. Regulates estrogen levels in the body
b. Controls the body’s internal clock
c. Helps the body digest melon
d. Causes insomnia
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, controls the body’s sleep cycles (circadian rhythm). Studies show that melatonin production naturally decreases with age, causing disrupted sleep patterns. Although melatonin is widely used in supplement form, its effects on sleep have been inconsistent in studies. The optimal dose of melatonin or safety of long-term therapy is not known. More studies are needed to determine if melatonin is effective and safe for some forms of insomnia, particularly for long-term use.
2. Sleep problems can be caused by:
a. Use of stimulants such as caffeine
b. Hot flashes
c. Stress, depression, and/or anxiety
d. All of the above
Many things, including hot flashes, stress, or use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, can cause sleep problems. Other potential causes include advancing age, depression and anxiety, medical conditions such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, certain medications, and exercising or overeating before bedtime.
3. An adequate amount of sleep per night for adult women is:
a. 12 hours
b. Between 6 and 9 hours
c. Between 10 and 11 hours
d. 5 hours
The optimal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but 6 to 9 hours is a good rule of thumb. Sleep is considered adequate if one can function in an alert state during desired waking hours. When we get less sleep (even 1 hour less) than we need each night, we develop a “sleep debt.” If the sleep debt becomes too great, it can lead to problem sleepiness and/or impairment — this occurs when you should be awake and alert, interferes with daily routine and activities, and reduces your ability to function and your ability to react quickly. You may not be aware of this reduction in reflex time, but it is measurable and may put you or your family at risk.
4. The following herbal therapies may assist women with sleep problems:
a. Valerian and passionflower
b. Chamomile and hops
c. Lavender and lemon balm
d. All of the above
Valerian has been reported to promote deeper sleep, and there is some medical evidence to confirm this. Passionflower, chamomile, hops, lavender and lemon balm are said to be mild sedatives — although true scientific data are lacking. (Ask your healthcare provider if herbal therapies might help you.)
5. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, the percentage of peri- and postmenopausal women who reported frequent insomnia was:
d. Less than 10%
A total of 61% of peri- and postmenopausal women reported frequent insomnia.
6. The most common cause of insomnia is:
c. Depression and anxiety
d. Loud music
Altered brain chemistry as a result of depression or anxiety interferes with sleep, making these conditions two of the most common causes of insomnia.
7. Which of the following does not help cure sleeplessness:
a. Having a bedtime snack
b. Avoiding nicotine
c. Limiting the use of the bedroom to sleep and sexual activities
d. Watching half an hour of television before bed
Television is often too stimulating an activity. Some strategies that may help with insomnia include the following:
Maintain a quiet, cool, dark environment that is conducive to sleep.
If you are unable to fall asleep after about 15 minutes, get up and engage in relaxing activities outside the bedroom, and return to bed when sleepy.
Follow a sleep routine by waking up and going to bed about the same time every day, even on weekends.
Finally, consider prescription therapy. Generally, it is a good idea to discuss this with your healthcare provider and try to evaluate the cause of the problem. Insomnia can be a symptom and the solution is to treat the underlying issues. Drugs may occasionally be used to treat insomnia, although ideally only as a short-term solution. Hormone therapy may improve sleep in some peri- and postmenopausal women, mostly by reducing menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats in women who are symptomatic.
For more questions on menopause, visit the North American Menopause Society’s web site.