We already know that this gap affects sexual health discussions, where women 50+ are not talking to their doctors -- and their doctors are not talking to them -- about how to relieve the pain that half of them experience during intercourse, thereby denying them treatment options and a more satisfying life.
The same turns out to be true for sleep, as revealed in a new study funded by Sunovion.
At first I wasn't sure why such a study was required. Sunovion's first headline: "61% of menopausal women have a hard time sleeping." Menopausal women have a hard time sleeping? Is anyone else tempted to ... yawn?
But the study gets better, and also establishes that 62% of the menopausal women with trouble sleeping aren't bothering to talk to their doctors about it, and vice versa. Not talking about a debilitating, life-dominating problem -- now that's news. Why not?
If anyone can answer that question, it's Karen Giblin, who founded Red Hot Mamas, an education program for menopausal women.
Karen, a Boomer entrepreneur, developed a series of education programs -- now presented in over 200 hospitals -- after an emergency hysterectomy threw her suddenly into what is known as "surgical menopause." Karen discovered that women like her needed support and resources to get through this often-challenging time of life.
Red Hot Mamas also does research, which brought it into partnership with Sunovion and, now, an effort to raise awareness about sleep deprivation during menopause. Together, they are guiding women to a website (run by Sunovion) that features useful sleep resources and advice: Take Back Your Sleep.
What's the best way to raise awareness among Boomer women (and offer solutions) about medical issues? Traditional PR methods, built on surveys like this one, are common, as are pharma-owned microsites. Women are searching online for solutions to menopause symptoms like insomnia at all hours -- literally.
But I wonder if it wouldn't be more effective to reach women in the communities (online and offline) where they already find themselves, in the hospitals where people like Karen Giblin are already educating them and in the online forums where they are already discussing these issues.
The more difficult challenge is the lack of interest or apathy in doctors who treat menopausal women with sleep issues. Sunovion's study showed that a shocking 17% of patients who describe their menopausal sleeplessness to their doctors actually get no recommendations or help.
Which only reminds us that it's the stereotypes -- stereotypes that make aging women invisible even in the eyes of their own doctors -- that need to be reversed before the real support and treatment can follow.
P.S. While it won't help anyone solve their sleep issues, my own personal favorite among menopausal sleep writings is guaranteed to make you laugh: "Awake."