As you probably know, menopause is such an unpredictable time for your body. There is no telling how your hormones are going to react or how your hormones will change. Unfortunately, as we try to adjust to these changes (which we all know can take a while) our sleep often suffers.
If you notice yourself waking up more during the night, or that you don’t feel rested when you wake, this is a sign that your sleep patterns have taken a hit. Suddenly checking Facebook in the middle of the night? Another sure fire sign that your sleep isn't where it should ideally be.
Sleep problems are a common, but sometimes a less discussed symptom that arrives with menopause. Remember - we need at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Studies have suggested that 61% of menopausal women struggle to get a 'goods night rest'. Lack of sleep has far reaching consequences - it can worsen other symptoms like low mood, fatigue, anxiety and stress. Sleep also plays an important part in the immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and disease susceptibility. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease.
Why does insomnia happen during your menopause?
During menopause, your sleep can change for a number of different reasons. This will be different for everyone, however, your other menopausal symptoms may be a driving force behind your disturbed sleep.
Night sweats create unavoidable and incredibly uncomfortable changes in your body temperature. Waking up drenched in sweat is definitely not ideal for your sleep. You may find yourself waking up unexpectedly in the middle of the night and needing to cool down immediately.
Lack of the hormone progesterone may reduce your ability to get good quality sleep.
With your reproductive hormones declining, you may be more susceptible to disorders such as sleep apnea. This is even more likely if you are overweight, or have type two diabetes. This is a sleeping disorder where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts, causing you to wake up unexpectedly multiple times throughout the night. Your partner might notice that you stop breathing in your sleep, or you make wake gasping for breath. This interferes with your type of sleep, and is associated with daytime tiredness, memory problems and even increased traffic accidents.
Sleep apnea is often overlooked during the menopause as many women will attribute their lack of sleep to external factors, such as increased stress levels, or simply 'busy days' at work or home.
Is insomnia common during menopause?
Yes - very common. You are definitely not the only one losing out on much needed sleep. Many women tell us at Alva that sleep is the one problem they'd like to solve. Unfortunately, it can be one of the hardest symptoms to fix. This is because it is often caused by external factors, such as other menopausal symptoms or things going on in your everyday life.
A lack of sleep may take the biggest toll on you, however. You cannot ignore the importance of a good night's rest. Seek out ways to mend your sleep schedule if you notice it begin to change.
How can you help your insomnia?
- Avoid chemicals that affect sleep — such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but after a few hours it acts as a stimulant – reducing the quality of sleep. Stick to recommended limits in the day, and avoid drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Exercise — Regular exercise throughout the day can help tire your body out. This may help you sleep a bit better through the night. Try not to exercise too close to your bed time, however, as it can act as a temporary stimulant.
- Eat healthy and eat smart — Try to have healthier meals before bed, one's that do not raise your blood glucose too much. Additionally, avoid foods that are associated with hot flashes, such as spicy foods or caffeine. Smaller and earlier meals are also helpful - sleeping on a full stomach is uncomfortable and eating later in the evening is associated with weight gain as well.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule — Try and teach your body that when it's time for bed, it's time for bed! Going to bed around the same time every night is a great way to instil a sleep schedule. This includes getting up at a similar time, not having a weekend lie in! Additionally, avoid napping in the later afternoon as that may keep you later than you want.
- Keep your bedroom cool and comfortable — If you struggle with hot flashes and night sweats, this one is for you! Create a cool dark environment in your room that may help reduce these symptoms Whether that is keeping it colder then normal, sleeping with thin sheets, or taking a shower before bed. If these symptoms are causing you to wake up in the middle of the night, try controlling them and see how that affects your sleep.
- Going to sleep when you’re truly tired — Struggling to sleep just leads to frustration, if you’re not asleep within 30 minutes get out of bed, go to another room and do something relaxing like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.
- Use lights to your advantage — Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep/wake cycle, so let in the light first thing in the morning. Blue light from computer screens has been demonstrated to disrupt the sleep cycle so avoid it at bedtime.
- Natural remedies — Sleep aids such as lavender oil, magnesium or chamomile may be worth a try. These act more as relaxants than anything else, however, may help ease your mind before going to bed. They can also form part of a regular sleep routine, which can help prepare your mind body for sleep.
- JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE. n.d. How Does Menopause Affect My Sleep?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 October 2020].
- SleepFoundation.org. n.d. Menopause & Sleep - Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 October 2020].
- National Institute on Aging. 2017. Sleep Problems And Menopause: What Can I Do?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 October 2020].