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Mind

menopause and sleep problems

By | Fact Checked By Andrea Donsky |

From perimenopause to postmenopause, women often say they have difficulty with sleep. That translates into several decades of nights that may be disturbed by hot flashes and night sweats, breathing difficulties, and anxiety, with the end result being daytime tiredness and less than ideal quality of life. So what can you do about it?

What are sleep problems?

Sleep problems associated with hormone changes can include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking up early, having to get up often to pee, waking up with night sweats, snoring, and sleep apnea. Up to 61 percent of postmenopausal women say they have poor sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Postmenopausal women are also very likely to snore and to experience obstructive sleep apnea.

Generally, if you are waking up several times a night and you don’t feel rested when you get up in the morning, you aren’t getting good sleep. Lack of good sleep can put a damper on your daily life, which is why we want to help you correct that!

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Why am I having sleep problems?

Fluctuating and declining estrogen levels are behind many perimenopausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal symptoms, including those that affect sleep. Night sweats, which affect about 75 to 85 percent of women around menopause, is one symptom that can significantly disrupt your sleep patterns and quality. 

In fact, research indicates that many menopausal women wake up immediately before they experience night sweats. It appears that changes in the brain, rather than a feeling of heat itself, trigger women to wake up. Even women who don’t have sleep problems from night sweats sometimes report having more trouble sleeping than they did before menopause.

Other symptoms that can impact sleep and that often occur during perimenopause and menopause include anxiety, depressive symptoms, and sleep apnea  which seems to develop more often when estrogen and progesterone levels decline. In fact, postmenopausal women are two to three times more likely to experience sleep apnea than premenopausal women.

How can I treat sleep problems naturally?

Managing sleep problems associated with menopausal hormone changes involves addressing several different factors, including fatigue, hot flashes, and mood changes. Here are some ways you can effectively improve sleep during these challenging times.

  • Take magnesium. This mineral is touted by some experts, including Mark Hyman, MD, medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, as “the relaxation mineral.” Magnesium releases muscle tension, which in turn helps your body and mind relax so you can sleep.
  • Try tryptophan. This is an amino acid that works on the brain in a way similar to that of melatonin; that is, it relaxes you. The best way to get this amino acid is with tryptophan-rich foods about 1 hour before you go to bed. Try some 100 percent whole grain oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, or tart cherry juice.
  • Pick passion. We’re talking about passion flower (Passiflora incarnate), which has been shown to relieve anxiety and promote calm as effectively as the benzodiazepine oxazapam. Try a cup of passion flower tea or a supplement before bedtime.
  • Eat sensibly. Avoid large meals before bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods may trigger hot flashes, so you may need to avoid them or only eat them early in the day. Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, especially before going to bed.
  • Keep it cool. Experts say the ideal sleeping temperature is 65⁰F. Wear 100% cotton sleeping clothes and use 100% cotton sheets and blankets.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, massage, yoga, tai chi, meditation, and visualization are a few stress-reducing methods you can use before going to bed to help you relax. You may also want to try listening to relaxing music (e.g., Peaceful Sleep) in your bedroom as you try falling asleep.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can help menopausal achieve better sleep quality and quantity. Get your workout during the day, however, rather than before bedtime, because late activity can keep you awake.

when to see a health provider

If you are experiencing sleep challenges that do not respond positively to natural treatment efforts and your quality of life is being affected, you should talk to your healthcare provider about other options.

bottom line

Sleep challenges are common among menopausal women, and they can begin during perimenopause and extend into postmenopause as well. As soon as you start to experience sleep problems, jump on it! Adopting healthy sleep habits and making lifestyle modifications can go a long way toward a better night’s sleep for many years to come.

Andrea is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) & Menopause Expert. Andrea is in menopause & has been researching for the last 5 years science-based ingredients and methods to help women manage their symptoms. She’s the Founder of NaturallySavvy.com—a multiple award-winning website. Andrea co-authored the book “Unjunk Your Junk Food” published by Simon and Schuster, as well as “Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart,” and “Label Lessons: Unjunk Your Kid’s Lunch Box.” Andrea co-hosts the Morphus for Menopause podcast and appears as a Healthy Living Expert on TV across North America. Andrea has more than 20 years of experience in the health & wellness space and is a multiple award-winning Influencer.