Mention the word menopause and most women recoil with horror–the hot flashes and rampant insomnia that often accompanies it hardly makes any woman happy. But now a new study in the journal Menopause may put an end to at least one of these symptoms.
In the study, which was led by Katherine Newton, Ph.D., a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute, taking a yoga class helped menopausal women overcome insomnia–though it didn’t help lessen hot flashes or night sweats.
“Many women suffer from insomnia during menopause, and it’s good to know that yoga may help them,” says Newton. “The ones who seek therapy are those bothered by mood or sleep. In our study, the improvement in insomnia was modest, but yoga might be one intervention that might help.”
Recruiting a total of 249 women diagnosed with menopause, Newton split up the women into three groups: a yoga group, an exercise group, and a control group. All participants were also given an omega 3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo.
During the study, Newton asked the yoga group to do one weekly 90 minute yoga session for a total of 12 weeks while tracking their menopause symptoms, which included hot flashes and insomnia. The exercise group were advised to stick to a more conventional routine during these 12 weeks, whereas the control group were asked not to do any specific exercise program during this time period.
At the end of the 12 week period, researchers then checked to see how these exercise regimens affected their menopause symptoms–and unfortunately, yoga had little effect on some big menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
However, it did lessen their insomnia.
“At week 12, yoga was associated with an improvement in insomnia symptoms,” says Newton. “Among healthy women, 12 weeks of yoga class plus home practice, compared with usual activity, do not improve VMS [vasomotor symptoms] frequency or bother but reduce insomnia symptoms.”
As for the reasons why yoga may improve a woman’s sleeping habits, researchers aren’t sure–but studies in the past have indicated women who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from insomnia. Perhaps it’s the continuous release of energy and hormones that help women get a good night’s worth of sleep.
“Between the two groups, there was no significant difference in depression or anxiety or perceived severity of hot flashes or night sweats,” says Nicholas Bakalar, a contributor to the New York Times. “Compared with the usual activity group, the yoga group had improvements in insomnia symptoms, a common complaint of menopause.”
If you’re currently dealing with menopause, or expect to soon, then it probably wouldn’t hurt to add a weekly yoga class to your daily routine. Just make sure to get the go ahead first from your doctor–not all yoga exercises are beginner-friendly.
Readers: Have you tried yoga before?
Yoga Has Limited Effect on Menopause – NYTimes.com
Yoga May Lessen Insomnia Associated With Menopause – ScienceDaily.com
Study: Weekly Yoga Session Lowers Insomnia for Menopausal Women – LWW.com