Menopause technically means ‘the end of menstruation,” and the average age for menopause is 51. But this change occurs years before as the body begins to slow down the release of eggs and hormones. As many as 10 years before menopause, a woman’s period may begin to be irregular, skipping a month, then having two periods within a short time. Periods may also alternate between heavy and light. These irregular cycles may cause increased discomfort and make you more susceptible to related conditions such as PMS or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a cycling depression related to PMS.
Using light to regulate menstrual cycles becomes more important during this transition phase. Women who have greater problems at this time tend to have more problems during menopause. The chances are, the better you make it through this period, your ability to enjoy life—health, relationships, sex, activity, etc. is also improved.
Perimenopause signals the time when your cycles are more inconsistent. It’s generally viewed as the few years before and the year after your last period. Women are more vulnerable to menstrual related disorders during this time. PMS and PMDD symptoms can be more severe. Therefore, regulating menstrual cycles during perimenopause is also critical. Bright light plays an important role in regulating menstrual cycles and minimizing the effects of PMS and PMMD.
Hot flashes are the primary cause of sleep problems in women over 50, and may also be the result of disturbed circadian rhythms. Falling estrogen levels during menopause send confusing messages to the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature. The circadian rhythm in turn spikes. This is most difficult during the sleep cycle, because it causes brief awakenings. A hot flash happens about once every hour during sleep, and causes brief awakenings. Even though most women don’t recall awakening, it is the reason for their poor quality of sleep.
“Instead, they often focus on the daytime consequences of poor sleep, which include fatigue, lethargy, mood swings, depression and irritability (all symptoms of circadian rhythm disorders).”
Hot flashes disrupt circadian rhythms
Hot flashes cause awakenings because the increase in temperature disrupts the melatonin release during the sleep cycle. However, even after menopause when hot flashes are no longer a problem, the rhythmic awakening continues, since the circadian rhythm is now miss-entrained. Britewave therapy is used to restore a normal circadian rhythm.
Suzanne Woodward of Wayne State University School of Medicine states that it is a mistake to dismiss these symptoms as “just menopause,” because they can be easily treated, their sleep can be improved and other symptoms can be relieved.
The issue of strengthening circadian rhythms for women is particularly critical during menopause. Several recent studies show that current menopause treatments increase the risk of cancer. Short and long-term hormone replacement therapy, once the mainstay of menopause treatment is now discouraged because of its negative consequences. Specialized light is becoming the more attractive alternative. It helps regulate the same brain centers that menopause hormones affect. Menopause causes sleep problems, fatigue, irritability, mood disorders, etc. Light therapy treats all these symptoms.
Melatonin & Menopause
New evidence is suggesting that menopause may cause a shift in melatonin production, particularly during the later stages of sleep. Lower levels of melatonin also account for increases in lutenizing hormone (LH), which is a known cause of hot flashes. Researchers at UCSD have found that increasing nighttime melatonin has a significant impact on reducing the frequency and number of hot flashes.
Some believe that an advanced circadian rhythm may be partially responsible for the increase in hot flashes, as an advanced rhythm would inhibit melatonin during the later stages of sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, especially during the early morning hours, you may have an advanced circadian rhythm. Visit this link to take the circadian rhythm assessment test.
Apollo Health Tips for Menopause
BRITEWAVE Therapy used in the evening and or late afternoon is best for regulating circadian rhythms during menopause. Evening light use lengthens the sleep cycle and provides more energy throughout the day. Since menopause symptoms vary, and body clocks react differently, we suggest you take the body clock test. This circadian rhythm assessment tool will create a personalized treatment schedule specific to your needs.
Mood Tracker. Use the Apollo health mood tracker to record when hot flashes and other symptoms happen. Several things can prompt a hot flash, such as caffeine, medications, tobacco and hot or spicy foods. The mood tracker will help you eliminate these problems.
Lower Your Temperature. Keeping cool is one of the most effective ways to reduce the number and severity of hot flashes. Set the thermostat in winter below 70° and use a fan. Also, use central air conditioning in the summer. (The small cost of air conditioning is more than offset by the health gains from reduced menopause symptoms. Central air also helps the air to circulate more.) Don’t take hot baths, and wear cotton pajamas and use cotton sheets to minimize heat retention. Keep a supply of ice water handy, especially at night to quickly cool down after waking up from a hot spell.
Melatonin Supplement. If an advanced circadian rhythm or other circadian rhythm disorder is not indicated, you may consider taking supplemental melatonin if you experience early morning awakening or disrupted sleep due to hot flashes.
Regular Exercise. Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease--the greatest health risk for menopausal women. Maintain a healthy weight, and lower your fat intake to further cut your heart disease and breast cancer risk