Between the time women enter perimenopause and then reach postmenopause, sleep challenges and menopause insomnia can be a common occurrence. I know, it doesn’t seem fair. Aren’t the mood swings, night sweats, hot flashes, and tender breasts enough to deal with? However, don’t despair. We are going to talk about not only why menopause affects sleep, but what you can do about it.
Why menopause affects sleep
The potential for sleep problems begins in perimenopause when estrogen and progesterone levels begin their decline. For women who have had their ovaries removed, any sleep and related menopausal symptoms are more severe because the drop in hormone levels is immediate.
Menopausal sleep problems are the result of various factors, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and disordered breathing. Some women discover they now snore, and this is more common in postmenopausal women. Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea and should be evaluated by a physician.
More than 60 percent of postmenopausal women have reported insomnia. One of the biggest contributors can be hot flashes, which affect up to 85 percent of women around menopause. When they occur at night, they are known as night sweats.
According to Grace Pien, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorder Center, changes occur in the brain that leads to a hot flash. It’s those changes, and not just the heat from the hot flash, that may be triggering you to wake up. However, “even women who don’t report sleep disturbances from hot flashes often say that they just have more trouble sleeping than they did before menopause,” notes Pien.
Although the total amount of time women sleep may not be affected significantly, sleep quality suffers. Interrupted sleep can result in fatigue the next day…and the day after that, and so on.
If you’re not getting about 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, you’re probably not getting enough. Pien explains that “In general, if you’re waking up regularly during the night and feel that your sleep isn’t restful, those are signs that maybe you’re not getting good sleep.
How to get better sleep during menopause
To help you get good quality, restful sleep during menopause, it’s important to address the factors that are contributing to your disrupted rest. Here are a few tips you should adopt.
- Eat wisely. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol, especially several hours before you retire. Stay away from acidic or spicy foods, as they are known to trigger hot flashes.
- Try a tryptophan snack. About one hour before retiring, have a small snack of food rich in tryptophan. This amino acid works on the brain similar to melatonin. Some pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tart cherry juice, or whole-grain oats may help you to relax.
- Try magnesium. Muscle tension can make it difficult to sleep, and magnesium is “the relaxation mineral,” according to Mark Hyman, MD, medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine.
- Be prepared for the heat. Night sweats can seriously disrupt your sleep, so keep your room cool and have air circulating with a fan or air conditioning. Avoid heavy night clothes and blankets.
- Relax before bedtime. Adopt stress-reducing techniques before you retire, such as listening to soothing music, yoga, meditation, massage, or reading. Take a cool shower.
- Avoid electronic devices. At least 60 minutes before you retire, avoid exposure to electronic devices. The blue light can disrupt serotonin production.
- Take vitamin D and calcium. Many women don’t get enough of these two nutrients, and both of them can be helpful in promoting restful sleep. Unless you can expose your skin to 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight four to five days a week, you may need to take a vitamin D3 supplement. Similarly, if you aren’t getting enough calcium from your food (e.g., broccoli, collard greens, figs, amaranth, seeds, tofu, nonfat dairy), then you may need to invest in calcium supplements.
- Talk to your doctor. If you are taking antidepressants, they may be contributing to your sleep disturbance issues.
- Get moving. Participate in regular exercise during the day (but not within 2 to 3 hours of retiring), at least five days a week, to help promote better sleep. Walking, tennis, dancing, aerobic classes, swimming, and other physical activities are recommended.
We take sleep for granted, yet it is a critical factor in overall health, especially when we don’t get enough. Although sleep can be a challenge during menopause, you can take a variety of steps to alleviate the stress associated with not getting enough sleep and move toward better health.
Try Morphus Sleepus, a non-habit-forming sleep supplement. This supplement addresses sleep issues during perimenopause and menopause by reducing cortisol levels, relaxing the body and mind, and promoting optimal sleep.