As women go through menopause and then enter post-menopause, insomnia can become very common and very debilitating. Between 33 and 66 per cent of postmenopausal women have sleep difficulties. Some studies suggest that HRT may help, but other studies suggest it might not. Given the controversy around HRT anyway, alternatives to help women who have been through menopause get a good nightâ€™s sleep are being sought. Now a new study suggests that soy may help.
Soy is a rich source of compounds called isoflavones, which have a mild oestrogenic action. For this reason soy foods and isoflavone extracts of soy have been recommended to menopausal women to help with the symptoms that arise from lowered oestrogen levels.
To investigate whether soy isoflavones might help with menopause related insomnia a group of postmenopausal women were asked to take either 80mg of soy isoflavones daily or a placebo. All of the women spent some time sleeping in a laboratory so that sleep stages, sleep movement and vital signs could be measured. This is the best way to truly test quality of sleep.
Among women who took isoflavones time spent asleep while in bed went from 78 per cent to 84 per cent. In the placebo group the increase was smaller going from 78 to 81 per cent. More impressive was the finding that among women given isoflavones 90 per cent reported moderate or intense insomnia at the beginning of the study but after the four months that figure had dropped to 37 per cent. In the placebo group 95 per cent started out with insomnia and by the end that number had only dropped to 63 per cent.
Since postmenopausal insomnia can have a variety of causes, it is hard to say exactly how the soy isoflavones are working. Still, it seems like soy is certainly worth a try if you are menopausal or postmenopausal and searching for some good sleep.
Quite apart from the regeneration you will feel from having some good sleep, imagine the punning potential: as you go off to bed you can quip, â€œIâ€™m soy sleepyâ€ and then in the morning you can wittily observe, â€œI feel soy refreshed after that sleep.â€ Ah, the merriment will just flow. If only Oscar Wilde had been aware of this study, his witticisms would have been soy much greater.