We sat down with OB/GYN Dr. Margueritte Gilkey to discuss Menopause Awareness. Find out what she has to say about women's health, menopause and more!
Please introduce yourself to our audience.
My name is Dr. Gilkey, I am a gynecologist in Raleigh, NC and have been in practice for 30 years. I attended pharmacy and medical school at the University of Florida and completed an OB/GYN residency at UNC-Chapel Hill. A major emphasis of my practice has been caring for menopausal women.
How can menopause cause women’s sleep habits to change?
As women age there are special concerns that arise. Menopause is a time of great change for many and I have found this time period the greatest challenge to treat. The average age of menopause is around 53 but symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia, can start well before ovarian function completely declines. Changes in hormonal balance and sleep disturbances are often blamed for weight gain that some patients experience. As estrogen declines, women are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
What are some ways to combat these changes?
The most effective therapy for many of these symptoms is Hormone Replacement Therapy. This therapy, however, is not appropriate for many women and due to potential side effects is not desired by others. Other medical treatments include prescriptions for serotonin uptake inhibitors or medications for insomnia. Most patients, however, do not choose to take prescription medications as a first resort.
Natural approaches are often preferred and are certainly the first things to try. Keeping active throughout life is important as it helps with weight control and mental well-being. Using a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training is helpful overall and will help prevent osteoporosis.
Hot flashes are the most annoying symptom for my patients. I recommend wearing lighter clothing, lowering the ambient temperature of the room where they sleep, and avoiding foods that often trigger this response. Caffeine, red wine, spicy foods and hot liquid drinks are common culprits.
Many of my patients sleep with a fan or lower their thermostats. This results in high electric bills and often an unhappy sleeping partner who has to pile on extra blankets or wear flannel pajamas.
Chili Technology offers an innovative solution to controlling the temperature of a person’s sleeping environment with the invention of ChiliPad. I have personally used a ChiliPad for eight years and have recommended this product to many patients. It is a specially designed pad that fits directly on top of the mattress under the bottom sheet. The pad is attached to a quiet device that pumps water through channels in the pad, and you choose the temperature that is best for you. ChiliPad will not prevent all hot flashes but it can significantly blunt the body's response to the temperature change, allowing for better sleep and comfort. The ChiliPad can be applied to a single sleeping area, removing the need to cool your room dramatically or affect the sleeping temperature of a partner. The ChiliPad has been very effective for my patients and for me!
In addition to optimizing sleep, exercising and keeping weight at a normal level, menopause is a time to make sure one stays current with mammograms and a colonoscopy. Flu vaccines are more important as one ages. Consideration should also be given toward receiving vaccines to prevent shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia. Most of these are covered by insurance and may be offered at your pharmacy.
Menopause is a time of change for many. Making healthy choices and taking time to do things you like, with people you enjoy, can make these years some of your best!
Note: Although Dr. Gilkey is a certified doctor, please contact your physician if you are having specific complications. Her advice can be used as guidance but is not a diagnosis.