Menopause and Snoring

Good sleep is vital for our wellbeing and health. The feeling of naturally waking, after a wonderful, refreshing sleep is incredible. Sleeping can become more difficult when hormones change during perimenopause and menopause, for lots of reasons. It’s not all about hot flushes, could sleep disordered breathing playing a part in your symptoms like brain fog and fatigue? Have you started to snore? Are snoring and menopause linked?

Is your partner complaining that you are snoring or that your night time breathing is becoming noisy, with gaps or pauses in your breathing? Are you waking up with headaches, feeling as if you haven’t slept well? Are you feeling exhausted all day? Is this having an impact upon your ability to think clearly and affecting your memory? Could you have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, OSA? Could symptoms of menopause and snoring be affecting your sleep?

Sleep disordered breathing can increase around the menopause and may go undiagnosed. Treatments like HRT may not seem to be managing to control some of your symptoms. This condition is important to diagnose, as it can affect your quality of life, your ability to work, and can have severe consequences increasing your chance of having accidents and increasing your risk of chronic illness.

What is OSA?

Sleep apnoea, or obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), is a condition where your breathing pauses for short spells when you are asleep because of an obstruction to the flow of air down your airway. The word apnoea means ‘without breath.’ The muscles in your throat become so relaxed and floppy when you are asleep that they cause a narrowing or even a complete blockage of your airway. This condition may affect up to 27% of women, the changes in hormone levels during the menopause may cause the throat muscles to relax more than usual, meaning that menopause and snoring are linked.

People with OSA may experience repeated episodes of apnoea throughout the night. These events may occur around once every one or two minutes in severe cases. During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers your brain to pull you out of deep sleep, either to a lighter sleep or being awake, so your airway can reopen and you can start breathe normally again. Repeated sleep interruptions due to this can mean your quality of sleep is so poor you consequently feel very tired during the day. You’ll usually have no memory of your interrupted breathing, so you may be unaware you have this problem.

What are the common signs and symptoms of OSA?
  • Snoring or heavy breathing
  • Pauses in breathing (apnoeas) breathing stops for short spells when you are asleep, your partner may tell you this
  • Waking up and feeling you have had unrefreshing sleep
  • Waking with headaches
  • Unexplained excessive sleepiness
  • Tiredness or fatigue when you wake up
  • Dry mouth on waking
  • Getting up to pass urine frequently at night
  • Having nightmares
  • Choking during sleep
  • Broken sleep or insomnia
  • Brain fog, unable to think clearly
  • Memory problems

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can usually be diagnosed after you’ve been observed sleeping at a sleep clinic, or by using a testing device worn overnight at home. If you think you have OSA, it’s important to visit your GP in case you need to be referred to a sleep specialist for further tests and treatment.

It may also help to fill out an Epworth Sleepiness Scale questionnaire. This asks how likely you’ll be to doze off in a number of different situations, such as watching TV or sitting in a meeting. The STOP-Bang questionnaire can also be used.


If you are diagnosed with OSA what can be done to help?

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) may include making lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight loss and alcohol reduction.

Some people find it helpful to use breathing apparatus while they sleep called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This is a small pump that delivers a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask that either covers your nose or your nose and mouth. The compressed air prevents your throat closing.

Complications of OSA

It is really important to see your Dr to talk about OSA, research increasingly shows the importance of good quality sleep and without it we can suffer with fatigue, reduced concentration or ‘brain fog’, raised blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, increased risk of anxiety and depression, increased risk of accidents, increased risk of memory problems, increased weight gain and diabetes.

Further information

Dr Louise Oliver:

‘Breathing is an automatic function that does not require conscious control. For various reasons over time an increasing number of people have lost the ability to breathe properly. Breathing regulates our circulation, hormones, digestion, movement, sleep, and the nervous system therefore poor breathing habits lead to poor physical and mental health. The body can be re-trained to breathe efficiently‘

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