We know that a lot of our fans either suffer from the symptoms of menopause or know someone who does. With the goal of helping our fans find answers to menopause related questions, we interviewed Dr. Seibel, an expert in women’s health and menopause. As one of the leading experts in menopause and hormonal treatments, Dr. Seibel’s answers can help you understand the changes happening to you or your friend.
How many women are affected by menopausal symptoms each year?
There are 64 Million women in the United States that are in menopause. Around 85% of them are having at least some type of symptoms. The most common symptoms in no particular order are: Hot flashes, emotional transitions, brain fog, weight change, difficulty sleeping, and lower libido.
Looking into the future, will that number be increasing or decreasing?
The number of women entering menopause is going up, so the size of the entirety of symptoms will go up. I think the per women experience will stay the same. What will hopefully change, is that as treatments and preventions come into play there may be a better handle on mitigating the symptoms so they are less severe or lesser in duration. But there doesn’t seem to be a transition in the symptoms over the decades, as the experiences are pretty consistent.
What Are the Most Common Sleep Disorders Experienced by Menopausal Women?
Without getting too scientific, women have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up frequently during the night. Staying asleep can be difficult when there are interruptions from symptoms such as hot flashes or the need to use the bathroom. Women also will get great sleep for most of the night, but then wake up in the early morning around 4 am. As much as they try, they are not able to fall back asleep.
How Can I Treat Sleep Problems Related to Menopause?
The treatment always depends on the cause. There is something called sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is what you do before bed so you can get a better night of sleep. And these are generic and positive for all issues related to sleep. Some examples of sleep hygiene are: have room darkening shades, keep the room cool, having a consistent bed time, and doing something relaxing before bed. It’s important not to watch TV, do your work, eat heavy meals, or smoke before bed. Instead put on relaxing music, take a warm bath, light some candles, read a book, and drift to sleep.
Now, if they aren’t sleeping because of anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, hot flashes, or bladder issues, each issue has to be treated separately.
What effects does the weather and temperature have on women who suffer from menopause?
Women who are suffering from hot flashes are going to be more susceptible to warmth. As I mentioned earlier, trying to keep the room cool is helpful. Temperature and warm places can be a trigger for hot flashes.
Warmer temperatures are problematic. If you dress in layers, as many women do, when the temperature or weather changes, what you’re wearing may not be compatible to your body.
What are the most common symptoms of Menopause and how long do they usually last?
As Mark Twain once said “all generalizations are inaccurate including this one.” But the reality is, the symptoms of menopause are most intense for most women in the 2-3 years leading up to menopause and in the year after menopause. That is the most intense window of time for symptoms. Having said that, the symptoms often gradually begin and intensify as many as 10 years before menopause. Now if you think about the fact that up to 1/10 women begin menopause around the age of 40-45, 1/100 go into menopause before age 40, and 1/1000 before age 30, you can see menopause happens to women at different times. These symptoms can be quite troubling and confusing.
In terms of the timing, certain symptoms can come on gradually before and after menopause. But for some symptoms such as hot flashes, they can persist for some time after. In recent studies it has been shown that by 55 around 20% of women have hot flashes and all the way up until ages 60-65 there’s still 6-7% of women suffering from hot flashes. So it’s important to know symptoms can go on for a long window of time, and well beyond the 3-4 years of menopause.
Can you give a high level overview of what the body is going through during a hot flash?
A hot flash is still something that no one has a complete understanding of. But at a high level, the body is warm blooded, so we try to keep our temperature in a certain range. The body has a certain way of doing that by causing blood vessels to narrow or dilate in order to distribute warmth throughout the body. For women in menopause the thermodynamic of the brains “thermostat” is sub optimally working. And as a result it releases signals for the body to heat. This causes a sudden dilation of blood vessels and the suddenly, a great deal of heat.
What can a partner do to help ease the symptoms?
A lot depends on the relationship. Menopause can become an additional stress. Each partner has to understand that they are going through a biological change and sometimes are not in control of how they feel or behave, and their normal response maybe different.
There has to be a little bit more patience, willingness to talk about it, and communicate. It’s all about communication and realizing this is a transition. Many times the husbands themselves are also going through a change. When you deal with all the other stresses of life, it really takes a resilience to realize that this is a window of time and much of this will pass. They need to continue to communicate and work together and it will work out.
Is thermal incompatibility between partners at night a real problem?
It does become an issue because they are both in the same bed. The bed is one temperature, but one of them is hot and the other is cool. Thermal incompatibility can be an issue, but it can be monitored with special blankets, and what they wear to bed. It can be a challenge.
How do most couples deal with this?
There is a lot of kicking the covers off, pulling the covers on, or getting in and out of bed. There are different kinds of blankets and other resources that can help. This is a big issue for women who suffer hot flashes because they are profusely sweating to the point where they drench their clothes and bedding. Anything that can add cooling has the potential to be helpful.
About Doctor Seibel:
Dr. Seibel is not only an industry leader in menopause and hormone treatment, but also the editor at My Menopause Mag. Dr. Seibel decided to specialize in menopause 15 years ago when his own wife began to develop menopausal symptoms. He is continually creating resources to help women understand the changes to their body during menopause including multiple books, a 5 week menopause course, and a Q & A forum, and free eBooks. Learn more about Dr. Seibel by visiting his website.
If you have any menopause question you would like Dr. Seibel to answer, comment them below and I’ll send them along. Or you can ask Dr. Seibel directly by using his Q & A tool: