"How did you sleep last night?" Did you toss and turn? Did you have vivid dreams? Did you sleep soundly? There are many factors that contribute to a good night's sleep such as food choices, body weight, alcohol consumption, and even one's age. As reported by Snore Lab, 10% of young adults under 30 snore compared to 40% who are over the age of 50. People diagnosed with cancer may have even more challenges sleeping due to the side effects of treatment such as insomnia or hot flashes which disrupt sleep quality.
Sleep plays a significant role in overall health. It affects all aspects of the body ranging from increased energy and serotonin levels to better mood, cognition, and immune function.
According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder; 48% of people report snoring and 21% of women have obstructive sleep apnea. Many women snore as they age, especially at the beginning of menopause due to the change in hormone levels. Estrogen is essential for muscle and cell health. When the female sex hormone is depleted, muscles tend to soften and lose their elasticity and form. Moreover, women entering perimenopause, menopause, or medically induced menopause associated with cancer treatments, become prone to muscle deterioration, (think of increased fat around the midsection, hips and thighs). However, the soft tissue in the throat is not out of harms way!
Estrogen and progesterone maintain the airway’s muscle tone in the throat, and keep it from collapsing. However, as hormone levels drop, women who are in menopause are more at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, the tissue in the throat relaxes and can partially block your airway and vibrate. The narrower the airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This increases tissue vibration, thereby causing snoring to grow louder. In this week's #FeatureFriday, we explore the correlation between snoring, menopause, and breast cancer.
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Women’s risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) increases substantially during and after the menopause transition, when depression risk is also elevated, raising the possibility that estrogen withdrawal contributes to OSA vulnerability, in turn contributing to mood disturbances.
These preliminary results suggest that, in addition to higher BMI and age, lower estradiol may be associated with increased Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) risk in depressed women during the peri- and postmenopause, raising the possibility that estradiol withdrawal associated with menopause influences upper-airway patency in women.
Results show that women who typically slept less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night and were frequent snorers in the years before their cancer diagnosis experienced a poorer cancer prognosis. The findings were especially robust for women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer patients who reported sleeping 6 hours or less per night and snoring 5 or more nights per week before their diagnosis were 2 times more likely to die from breast cancer (hazard ratio = 2.14) than patients who reported sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night and rarely snored.
The tissues in your upper airway tend to lose structure as you sleep. You're relaxed, after all, and so are the muscles in the chest, neck, and face. Breathing in and out through an airway that's surrounded by soft or "flabby" tissue results in audible vibrations in the throat. These sounds may be soft or loud, or you might hear groans or whistles instead of the rattling most often associated with snoring.
Sleep is a whole-body process that has a unique relationship to all body systems. When sleep is disrupted, it is fair to say that system disruption also occurs. Over time, these disruptions render an environment where chronic disease can flourish.
Menopause and Sleep
Generally, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep and as many as 61% report insomnia symptoms. Snoring has also been found to be more common and severe in post-menopausal women. Snoring, along with pauses or gasps in breathing are signs of a more serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Changing and decreasing levels of estrogen cause many menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, which are unexpected feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating. They usually begin around the face and spread to the chest affecting 75-85% of women around menopause.