Marla Ahlgrimm explains menopause and why some women find it difficult to sleep during this phase of life.
Menopause is most simply explained as the end of a woman’s childbearing years, says registered pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm. It is a time of great physical change that affects each woman differently. However, Marla Ahlgrimm relates one very common theme that has echoed since she first helped identify hormone related issues in the 1970s–sleeplessness.
Hot flashes – not a warm fuzzy way to wake
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, almost all women experience hot flashes during menopause and its early stage, perimenopause. Hot flashes can creep up suddenly and rouse a menopausal woman from slumber without warning, explains Marla Ahlgrimm, who has been affectionately nicknamed “Doctor Marla Ahlgrimm” by the hundreds of thousands of women she has helped over the years.
Marla Ahlgrimm says hot flashes are caused by a drop in estrogen, the female sex hormone. A woman’s estrogen level can begin to fall up to a decade before she enters menopause. These waning levels of estrogen are typified by sleep disturbances, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. As estrogen decreases it may be more difficult for a woman to fall asleep and stay asleep. Marla Ahlgrimm says that hot flushing – the sudden reddening of the cheeks caused by capillary expansion – is common and very uncomfortable. Night sweats are another consequence of hot flashing which cause restlessness.
Stress – another culprit
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, hot flashes are not the only villain fighting sleep during menopause. Stress and the anxiety of “the change of life” can create an internal environment ripe for lying in bed awake…all night long. Menopause induced stress is caused by both physical factors and emotional reactions to aging, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. While some women are excited to no longer have to use birth control, others are constantly mourning the loss of the ability to have children – often without even realizing it.
Marla Ahlgrimm also reports that the stress of not sleeping can compound itself to the point of chronic insomnia. This is called “learned insomnia” and implies that there are no outside forces causing the wakefulness, explains Marla Ahlgrimm.
OTC medications – a short-term remedy
Marla Ahlgrimm reports that over the counter sleep aids may help temporarily–at least long enough to see a doctor. She warns that the body builds a tolerance to most chemical sleep compounds in about three weeks, however. This tolerance can greatly diminish the medication’s effectiveness and may entice some women to overuse these medications, says Marla Ahlgrimm.
Melatonin - a mellow medication
Melatonin is a chemical produced naturally by the body which helps regulate sleep, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. It is also available for purchase at most pharmacies nationwide and is a popular supplement to those with insomnia. While it is not an FDA approved supplement for sleep, melatonin is typically considered safe to use in low doses and is being studied by scientists to treat a number of other conditions, reports Marla Ahlgrimm.
HRT – the natural solution
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the most common treatment for menopause related insomnia is hormone replacement therapy. HRT is Marla Ahlgrimm’s area of expertise. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, estrogen is known to help manage night sweats and hot flashes whereas natural progesterone has a calming effect on the body. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that “natural” progesterone is bioidentical to “naturally occurring” progesterone (which is produced by the body during pregnancy), though it is a man-made chemical. Progesterone is referred to as the pregnancy hormone and credited for the “glow” that many women are noted for during the prenatal period.
About Marla Ahlgrimm
Marla Ahlgrimm began her career in 1978, shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy. Since then, she dedicated her expertise to helping women find relief from PMS, menopause, and other issues. She is the founder of Women’s Health America and pioneered HRT therapy in the United States.
For more information or to contact Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph. visit her online at marlaahlgrimm.com.