Written by Gina Besteman, R.Ph. & Michelle Violi, Pharm.D – Women's International Pharmacy
One of the more common symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause that patients complain of is difficulty sleeping. There is a significant amount of research showing how hormones affect sleep.
Progesterone affects GABA receptors which are responsible for non-REM sleep, the deepest of the sleep stages. Progesterone also affects breathing. It's been shown to be a respiratory stimulant and has been used to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea.
Estrogen's role in sleep appears to be more complicated than that of progesterone. Estrogen is involved in breaking down norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine in the body. Estrogen has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, decrease the number of awakenings after sleep occurs and increase total sleep time. Low estrogen levels may lead to hot flashes which can also affect sleep.