By the time a patient sees their doctor for poor sleep, they have likely tried numerous over-the-counter medications with little to no improvement. When patients experience chronic sleep disturbance, they can feel exhausted, overwhelmed, unhappy and desperate. Some express how their lack of sleep affects their ability to function at work, their motivation for self care and the impact it has on their relationships.
At least 7 hours of sleep is recommended in adults. A third of US adults, however, are sleep deprived, according to the CDC. Sleep is a critical part of our lives. The quality of our sleep can determine the quality of our overall health. Sleep disorders have been linked to numerous chronic conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and depression.
Some physicians prescribe benzodiazepines for patients who experience insomnia. Examples of this drug class include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Temazepam and Diazepam. These drugs are not strictly designed to aid with sleep, though they have sedative effects. Unfortunately, this drug class has addictive properties and is also associated with cognitive impairment. Recent studies now suggest that long-term use of benzodiazepines are linked with dementia. In other studies, Ambien, also commonly prescribed for sleep, has also been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
While prescribing sleep medications may temporarily help with sleep, too often, the underlying root cause of poor sleep patterns are not addressed at a doctor’s office. One potential cause of poor sleep is progesterone deficiency. Progesterone, which is a feel good hormone that has a calming effect, is an ovarian hormone. Progesterone declines as a result of aging and stress. For this reason, many perimenopausal and postmenopausal women suffer from poor sleep patterns. Supplementing women with progesterone who have progesterone deficiency may be helpful for sleep.
In a randomized, double blinded study, postmenopausal women were given micronized progesterone for 21 days. Using an EEG (a test that detects electrical activity in your brain), their sleep patterns were studied. The study indicated that progesterone decreased the intermittent time that was spent awake during sleeping hours. The first third of the night, rapid eye movement (REM), also increased. Furthermore, progesterone did not affect cognitive performance, a side effect commonly seen with benzodiazepines. Progesterone is considered “useful in the treatment of sleep disturbances of postmenopausal women.”
In another study, focusing on postmenopausal women, progesterone was found to also confirm reduction of sleep disturbance. The duration and intensity of deep sleep was found to be higher in women taking progesterone versus the placebo group. The study further indicated that progesterone functions “as a “physiologic” regulator rather than as a hypnotic drug. Use of progesterone might provide novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of sleep disturbances, in particular in aging where sleep is fragmented and of lower quality.”
Patients can experience a variety of symptoms as a result of hormone imbalance. It’s important to check your levels regularly, supplement any deficiencies and dose adjust, as needed. If you’re experiencing sleep disturbance, be sure to ask about your doctor about your hormone levels.
This article is for educational purposes only. Be sure to always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any medications or supplements
He Q, Chen X, Wu T, Fei X, et al. Risk of Dementia in Long-Term Benzodiazepine Users: Evidence from a Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Journal of Clinical Neurology. 2018 Oct 26.
Shih H, Lin C, Tu Y, Chang C, et al. An Increased Risk of Reversible Dementia May Occur After Zolpidem Derivative Use in the Elderly Population. Medicine. 2015 May 1.
Schussler P, Kluge M, Yassouridis A, et al. Progesterone Reduces Wakefulness in Sleep EEG and has No Effect on Cognition in Healthy Postmenopausal Women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Sept.
Caufriez A, Leproult R, L’Hermite-Baleriaux, et al. Progesterone Prevents Sleep Disturbances and Modulates GH, TSH, and Melatonin Secretion in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011 Apr 1.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html