Menopause sleep problems or menopause and insomnia often go hand in hand. This major change in a woman’s life is marred by several hormonal, physical, and emotional changes that often affect the amount of sleep a woman gets, as well as sleep quality.
The technical diagnosis of menopause is defined as a full year passing since a woman’s last menstrual period. The periods before and after this period are referred to as perimenopause and post-menopause, respectively. It is during perimenopause that a woman’s ovaries begin to underproduce several key hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, causing many of the symptoms seen in menopausal women.
How is insomnia linked to menopause?
Generally, insomnia is experiencing a sense of sleeplessness, with it being very difficult to initiate falling asleep from the beginning. A lack of sleep during menopause is quite common, as approximately 61 percent of women who are post-menopausal frequently experience episodes of insomnia.
There are several reasons why a person may suffer from insomnia, with psychological factors also playing an important role. However, menopausal women battle several additional sleep-disrupting symptoms, such as hot flashes due to hormonal fluctuations. Additional causes leading to insomnia may also include:
- Fatigue: Both a cause and a symptom of an inability to sleep
- Room temperature fluctuations
- Sensitivity to noise
- Perennial digestive problems: Can increase energy during the nighttime as it takes more time for food to break down as we sleep
- Pain due to injury: Such as backaches, arthritis, or dental pains
- Early morning hypoglycemia
- Allergies: Dust or pollen has a tendency to break out early in the morning triggering the condition
- Recurring dreams
- Emotional causes: Anger, frustration, or sadness that may become stored in the subconscious and manifest as terminal insomnia
The following are some specific causes of lack of sleep during menopause:
Hormonal changes: Most prominent during the perimenopausal period, decreases in progesterone can make it more difficult to fall asleep as this hormone is thought to play some role in sleep promotion. Additionally, decreased in estrogen is believed to make women more susceptible to environmental stressors that may disturb sleep.
Hot flashes: Symptoms may consist of feelings of intense heat that can make your face and neck appear red and blotchy, with some women reporting the feeling of blood rushing from the lower half of their body up to their head. During episodes, sweating may occur due to the body attempting to cool down, making some get chills as a sudden cool sensation washes over. Hot flashes may also cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse and possible feelings of dizziness, which can possibly disrupt sleep.
Depression and mood swings: It is believed that about 20 percent of menopausal women will experience depression, which can impact several areas of a woman’s life, including the quality of sleep.
Treating menopausal sleep problems
While insomnia is not an exclusive problem for menopausal women, treating the symptoms of menopause can help improve the symptoms of insomnia. This may include:
- Hormone replacement therapy: Often used in menopausal women to help rebalance decreased hormone levels
- Low dose birth control: May help to stabilize hormone levels
- Low-dose anti-depressants: Medication that alters serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood and happiness
Natural remedies for insomnia and menopause
Exercise: A study conducted at Northwestern University found that regular aerobic exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, mood, and vitality. The participants included in the study who performed aerobic exercise four times a week reported that exercising lead to significant improvement in their sleep. However, when the exercise was performed was important, with it not being recommended two to three hours before bedtime.
Sip selectively: Caffeine is a common component of many beverages we consume today. It can be found in coffee, soda, and even chocolate. It is considered a stimulant that boosts alertness, ultimately disrupting sleep. Menopausal women may also experience more frequent hot flashes when drinking beverages containing caffeine.
Keep cool: By making sure the temperature in your bedroom is cool yet comfortable, dealing with hot flashes and night sweats can be more manageable. It may also be beneficial to wear breathable cotton sleepwear and use cotton sheets over synthetic material. It may also be a good idea to take a cool shower before bed.
Relax: Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can help reduce stress levels and make it easier for you to initiate sleep. By making relaxation techniques part of your nightly ritual, it can be an easy way to de-stress and get better sleep.
Stick to a schedule: By adhering to a proper sleep schedule, your body will become more acclimated to receiving quality sleep every night. This means going to bed at the same time every day, regardless if it’s the weekend or not. If you like to take daily naps, it is advised to only indulge before 3 p.m.
Avoid allergens: Making sure your bedroom is allergen free at all times of the night will ensure that allergies do not interrupt your sleep.
Reduce stress: Painting, listening to soothing music, or having a massage are just some ways to reduce stress levels.
See your doctor: There are prescription medications available that can help insomnia patients get better sleep. Your doctor may also refer you to other treatment plans that may help resolve other potential symptoms of menopause.
If you are currently going through menopause and find yourself becoming increasingly exhausted during the day, it is possible you suffer from menopausal related insomnia. By following the recommendations discussed here, you will be sure you are doing your best to help treat the problem.