Researchers trying to determine whether so-called alternative approaches could help women overcome menopause symptoms found that only one had any effect, and that only partial. Yoga helped women overcome insomnia associated with menopause, but since sleep apnea is also associated with menopause and the two conditions are confused by sufferers, it’s possible yoga may help sleep apnea.

Study Design and Findings

The researchers were primarily trying to determine whether alternative treatments could reduce menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for menopause symptoms, but it comes with risk, and recent lawsuits over its association with breast cancer have made both doctors and patients cautious of its use.

Although the study looked at yoga, exercise, and fish oil supplements as possible treatments, none were found to be effective on hot flashes or subjective complaints about menopause symptoms. However, yoga did turn out to be effective against insomnia.

Could This Affect Sleep Apnea?

Insomnia means “no sleep,” and it’s a generic label that is imposed on many sleep disorders where information is not specific enough to narrow the diagnosis further. Researchers in this study assessed outcomes by looking at diaries kept by subjects. Part of the reason sleep apnea goes undiagnosed so often is that people don’t know they have it. They may waken many times at night, but think it’s due to many other causes. Sleep apnea sufferers may doze off repeatedly and awaken due to an apneic event, but not remember that they ever slept. In the morning when they feel sleepy and unrested, they can’t pin down the cause of their exhaustion and attribute it to insomnia.

Sleep apnea increases in women around menopause, although we’re not sure why. Some researchers suggest that the cause is hormonal. However, there is mixed evidence about whether hormone replacement reduces sleep apnea or not, which throws doubt on a hormonal cause. More likely is that sleep apnea is caused by a secondary effect of menopause: weight gain and increasing neck circumference.

With all this uncertainty, it doesn’t seem likely that yoga would help sleep apnea in menopausal women, but it’s not impossible, either. Exercise that leads to weight control is certainly a good strategy for combating sleep apnea.

If You Have Insomnia, Get Evaluated for Sleep Apnea and Get Proven Treatment

If you are a perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman and think you have insomnia, it’s best to eliminate sleep apnea as a possibility. The risks are too great to leave it untreated. Then, once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can try lifestyle factors to help long-term control, but you should immediately seek out a treatment that is known to work, such as CPAP or oral appliance therapy.

If you are in Denver and want to learn more about insomnia and sleep apnea associated with menopause, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado today for an appointment.