5 Menopause Sleep Solutions - Your Guide to a Better Snooze
If you are reading this, you’re probably looking for some answers as to why on Earth - on top of everything else - sleep has to be so difficult during menopause. More importantly, you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do about it (spoiler alert: yes, thankfully there is!).
How does menopause affect sleep?
Listen up, friends, because if you’re losing sleep during perimenopause or postmenopause, you’re certainly not alone. A 2017 study found that many women experience sleep disturbances throughout the menopause transition, twenty-six percent of whom have symptoms severe enough to qualify for an insomnia diagnosis.
Difficulty sleeping, and in some cases insomnia, are among the earliest signs of perimenopause. The National Sleep Foundation reports that around sixty-one percent of menopausal women have sleep problems. Yes, ladies, as if we haven’t experienced enough disruption in our sleep patterns during middle age while worrying about everything and everyone, this menopausal gem can be a doozy. Sleep changes during menopause can include trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and an interrupted sleep pattern, often mixed in with hot flashes.
Why do menopausal women have a hard time sleeping?
Hormone levels fluctuate throughout perimenopause and postmenopause, and this is what’s responsible for most side effects women experience, including sleep changes. During this transition, the body produces less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Estrogen directly affects sleep, in that higher levels of it are associated with mental sharpness, positive mood, and good sleep patterns. Progesterone has a calming effect on the body, helping us to relax and maintain a positive mental state. Testosterone is mostly responsible for sex drive but also boosts overall energy. When these three hormones are at lower levels, it’s no wonder why regular, restful sleep is one of the first things to go for many women during middle age.
5 menopause sleep solutions to get you on your way back to restfully counting sheep
Find your optimal hibernation temperature.
Hot flashes and wacky hormones are one of the most common complaints of perimenopausal and menopausal women. Because this is due to changing hormones and isn’t exactly predictable, it can help to set yourself up for the most comfortable nighttime climate. Light, loose clothing and sheets that can easily be pulled down can help you stay cool. Keep the room temperature around 68 degrees or colder, and have a bottle filled with ice water next to your bed. It might also help to have a small fan on your nightstand that can be turned on during a hot flash, especially if your partner or spouse isn’t too keen on the bedroom being an icebox all night.
2. Eat for your sleep.
Eat dinner at a reasonable time, a few hours before going to sleep. If you’re a nighttime snacker, choose something light before bedtime that won’t cause acid reflux, bloating, or overall feeling of fullness that often comes with menopause. Try something like a banana or oatmeal, which contain tryptophan, an amino acid needed to make serotonin and melatonin, the brain chemicals that make us sleepy.
3. Be active, but at the right times.
Exercise is excellent for women, especially for managing symptoms of menopause, but did you know that there’s an optimal time to do it if you want to sleep better? Exercising too late in the day can actually keep you awake longer than you’d like and promote insomnia - try pushing your activity to the afternoon. This way, your body is tired later in the day and is ready to wind down at bedtime.
4. Establish a nighttime routine.
It sounds simple, but having a nightly routine isn’t just a good idea for three-year-olds, but also for women in perimenopause and postmenopause. Starting your evening wind-down, getting into bed, and turning the light out around the same time every night can help train your body and brain to get tired at that time. This also means minimizing naps during the day - something else we know from kids is that if they get too much sleep during the day, they’re not going to bed anytime soon. Lastly, avoid watching television or staring at your phone right before bed - the noise and blue light can actually stimulate your brain, suppress your melatonin, and make it even harder to fall asleep.
5. Create a calming space.
Whether you’re perimenopausal, menopausal, or postmenopausal, make your bedroom into your sleep sanctuary. Use blackout curtains to make the room darker or use one of those soft pillowy sleep masks to keep any extra light out of your eyes. Turn off any excess noises and instead opt for white noise or a water machine if that’s something that helps to clear your mind. If you’re into meditation, this can help when your eyes are closed, or just think relaxing thoughts as you drift off to sleep. This is also a good opportunity to ask your partner to give you that insomnia-fighting back massage. Check out our Sleep Product roundup for more ideas on creating a calm sleep environment.
A few more sleep issues to be aware of. Peri and postmenopausal women often snore as well, which can be a sign of sleep apnea, or when you stop breathing for periods of time while asleep. Sleep apnea can partially result from the loss of estrogen and progesterone during menopause. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea.
Poor sleep doesn’t just make you understandably exhausted and cranky the next day - it has also been linked to increased nighttime junk food cravings, which can lead to health problems, like obesity and diabetes.
Not sleeping well isn’t making anyone happy, either. Insomnia and inadequate sleep can also increase women’s risk for anxiety and depression. In the years of perimenopause, estrogen levels are increasingly erratic, which also contributes to a higher incidence of mental health problems for women of this age. Combine unpredictable hormone levels with unpredictable sleep patterns, and you have a recipe for menopausal exhaustion, physically and mentally.
But you don’t have to just accept sleep as something you once used to enjoy.
For more information and support for getting your sleep - and other parts of life - back on track, join us over at Lisa Health!