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How Can I Improve My Sleep During Menopause?

How Can I Improve My Sleep During Menopause?

Getting sufficient, quality sleep is crucial for overall well-being, especially as individuals age and experience the various physiological changes associated with menopause. This blog aims to provide information on sleep during menopause and strategies to improve it.

Doctors recommend that healthy adults get approximately seven hours of sleep a night. As people age, achieving sound sleep can become challenging, and menopause introduces additional hurdles due to hormonal and physiological changes. The consequences of inadequate sleep during this time can exacerbate already challenging aspects of menopause, including brain fog, lack of concentration, irritability, mood swings, and memory issues. Notably, over 60% of women report experiencing sleep issues during menopause.

Why is Sleep So Important?

Understanding the importance of sleep is key. Beyond short-term cognitive function, mood, and productivity, it significantly impacts long-term health. Here are some key reasons why sleep is crucial:

  • Immunity: Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses. People who sleep only 5 hours per night are 40 times more likely to catch a cold.
  • Cardiovascular Health: The risk of cardiovascular disease is heightened during menopause due to the loss of protective sex hormones, and lack of sleep can further increase this impact. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women, resulting in 10x more deaths than breast cancer.
  • Mental Health: Sleep deprivation affects the amygdala, responsible for emotions, and is particularly relevant in the menopausal age group, which experiences higher instances of anxiety, depression, and a higher risk of suicide.
  • Diabetes & Gut Health:  Sleep duration and quality play a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.
  • Dementia: A Harvard Medical School study found that individuals who slept fewer than five hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia and face a higher risk of mortality compared to those who slept six to eight hours per night.

What Impacts Sleep During This Life Stage?

Sleep challenges during menopause are influenced by various factors, and understanding these is essential for effective management. Here are some key contributors to sleep difficulties during this time:

  • Hormones:  Changes in hormones, particularly a decline in estrogen, impact the hypothalamus, disrupting the regulation of body temperature. Approximately 80% of women experience vasomotor symptoms (VSM), such as hot flashes and night sweats, with 50-70% of awakenings linked to VSM. Additionally, stress can trigger cortisol release, keeping the body on high alert and making it difficult to return to sleep.
  • Joint Pain and Inflammation:  Estrogen plays a role in regulating fluid levels in the body, including joint lubrication. A decrease in estrogen levels during menopause may result in joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, contributing to restless nights.
  • Sleep Apnea:  The decline in estrogen and progesterone levels can reduce muscle tone in the airway, leading to “obstructive sleep apnea” (OSA). Postmenopausal women are 2-3 times more likely to have sleep apnea compared to premenopausal women. Symptoms such as snoring, breathing interruptions, waking up gasping, or frequent headaches may indicate sleep apnea. It’s crucial to consult a doctor or sleep specialist, as untreated sleep apnea poses a higher risk of long-term health issues.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Positively Impact Your Sleep?

There are some important changes that you can proactively implement to promote better sleep during menopause. Consider implementing the sleep strategies below.

  • Keep a Sleep Schedule: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, even on weekends. This regularity helps keep your circadian rhythms in sync.
  • Naps: If nighttime sleep is insufficient, consider a refreshing nap, limited to 20 to 30 minutes before 3 pm.
  • Awakenings:  If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, leave the room. Ease your stress about not falling asleep by engaging in calming activities like reading or listening to peaceful music can be helpful.
  • Improve Your Environment:  Adjust your sleep environment by turning the thermostat down, wearing light and breathable fabrics, and using layers of covers for temperature control. Keep the room cool and dark, with a nearby fan. Avoid electronic devices an hour before bed to prevent disruptive blue light exposure.
  • Create a Consistent Sleep Routine:  Establish a bedtime routine that includes calming activities such as a warm bath, decaffeinated tea, calming music, or stretching to unwind before sleep.
  • Exercise Daily: Engage in daily exercise to boost endorphins, regulate circadian rhythms, and alleviate factors impacting sleep quality. Avoid vigorous exercise at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Stress Reduction: Find stress relief through meditation, yoga, massage therapy, journaling, outdoor walks, or self-care practices to proactively manage mental health.
  • Eat a Well-Balanced Diet:  Ensure a well-balanced diet rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to maintain energy levels. Avoid processed foods, added sugar, caffeine, and late-night eating. Read more in our blog, “Changing Your Diet During Menopause.”

What Other Sleep Intervention Options Are Available?

Exploring various sleep intervention options during menopause is crucial for managing sleep disruption. 

  • Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT) is highly recommended for reducing hot flashes and is proven to have a positive impact on sleep issues. If you are taking progesterone, take it before bed, as it can have a sedative effect.
  • Insomnia Medications can be effective for chronic insomnia, particularly in individuals with depression. These are intended for short-term sleep assistance, as some can cause dependence and addiction, can increase your risk of accidents, and could impair your ability to function. 
  • Antidepressants can be effective for chronic insomnia, especially those individuals who have depression.
  • Hypnosis is a proven treatment for acute and chronic insomnia and can also help reduce hot flashes. The goal is to educate and train subjects to perform self-hypnosis to alleviate underlying symptoms. 
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a specific form of CBT tailored to address sleep quality, the ability to fall asleep, returning to sleep after waking, and awakenings and reliance on sleep medications. It focuses on getting the body and brain ready for sleep and the thought patterns that contribute to insomnia.

During menopause, sleep disruption is a common issue that can worsen other symptoms and lead to long-term health issues. Lifestyle changes can positively impact restful sleep. If these prove ineffective or if there’s suspicion of sleep apnea, consult a healthcare provider. Consider interventions such as CBT-I or hypnotherapy for additional support.

If you have any questions or want to work with Menowar on a customized menopause plan for you, schedule a free consultation here.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.