The menopause is defined as the time period which begins after a woman has gone 12 months without a period. It is most common between the ages of 45 to 55. It is caused by profound changes in hormone levels. Estrogen, progesterone, and androgen levels drop significantly. These hormones have significant effects on the central nervous system. Specifically, they cause changes in the ability to regulate body temperature, resulting in hot flashes. There are changes in the levels of brain chemicals known as serotonin and norepinephrine that can result in depression and anxiety. All of these changes can, and do, interfere with sleep in the majority of women going through menopause.
The good news is that there are many treatments available. Estrogen replacement therapy is standard and in low doses can be very effective. Medications such as gabapentin, clonadine, and the antidepressant venlafaxine have proven effective as well. In addition, the plant estrogens called phytoestrogens are effective as are diets high in soy, fruits, and vegetables.