Today, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new study published in the Journal of Women’s Health that stated that gabapentin (a drug originally used to treat seizures and psychiatric disorders) is useful in helping women who have menopause hot flashes get better sleep. You can see the abstract here: http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2008.1257.
Poor quality sleep is one of the most common effects of menopause, thanks to sleep-disturbing night sweats. However, I can’t support the use of a medication such as gabapentin to help women with insomnia, especially when there are safer, more natural ways to promote better sleep. Side effects of gabapentin include drowsiness, headache, uncontrollable shaking, vision problems, anxiety, memory problems, nausea/vomiting, and strange or unusual thoughts–just to name a few!!
If you are experiencing menopause problems such as night sweats or hot flashes that are disturbing your sleep, I encourage you to try any one of these safe, effective, natural therapies:
· Stress reduction. Stress of any kind can interfere with sleep. I recommend Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is a graceful combination of meditation and yoga originally conceived by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. (Learn more at www.mindfullivingprograms.com.) MBSR is now widely recognized as an effective stress reducer and sleep enhancer. Dr. Kabat-Zinns online referral service (at www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mbsr) can help you locate MBSR near you.
· 5-HTP. Serotonin, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that relaxes and calms you down, is produced within the brain from 5-HTP. I suggest taking 50100 mg one or two times per day. Be sure to take 5-HTP with a carbohydrate snack, such as a piece of fruit, to facilitate its uptake into the brain. In addition, take 50100 mg of vitamin B6, to ensure 5-HTPs timely conversion to serotonin.
· Melatonin is produced in the body from serotonin and is crucial in regulating your sleep/wake cycle. In an analysis published in the February 2005 issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews, researchers reviewed and analyzed 15 studies involving healthy adults with insomnia who supplemented with melatonin. They concluded that melatonin was, in fact, very effective in increasing total sleep and sleep efficiency, among other factors. Melatonin is naturally found in bananas, tomatoes, beets, and cucumbers. If you choose to supplement with melatonin, I recommend taking 11.5 mg in the evening.
GABA is another major inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes messages of calm and relaxation. I recommend taking 1,000 mg of GABA twice a day if you suffer from sleep deprivation.