It's Not Just You. Sleeping Well Gets Harder in Menopause.

It's Not Just You. Sleeping Well Gets Harder in Menopause.

MenoLabs News | Tue, Apr 14, 2020

Insomnia and sleep issues affect thousands of middle-aged women going through menopause every day. Some menopause symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting good sleep quality. Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings are just some of the things that menopausal women may experience in addition to sleep disturbances. In fact, new research shows most women who experience insomnia symptoms during menopause report waking up during the night time due to discomfort from hot flashes, also known as night sweats.


Why does the likelihood of poor sleep quality increase during menopause? Why do over 60 percent of postmenopausal women have trouble getting enough sleep? What can women do to get a better night's sleep, enjoy bedtime, and fight fatigue or exhaustion? The importance of sleep in older adults is key for a good quality of life, so how can you start getting good sleep and improve your wellness?

 What can women do to get a better night's sleep if they do experience insomnia during the stages of menopause

Why does the likelihood of poor sleep quality increase during menopause? Why do over 60 percent of postmenopausal women have trouble getting enough sleep? What can women do to get a better night's sleep, enjoy bedtime, and fight fatigue or exhaustion? The importance of sleep in older adults is key for a good quality of life, so how can you start getting good sleep and improve your wellness?

What Menopause Does to the Brain

When the brain is prepared for REM sleep, it sends out neurotransmitters that regulate a variety of functions: concentration, cognitive functions, emotions, learning, dreaming, and, most importantly, sleeping. Progesterone, one of the hormones responsible to limit menstruation, also helps promote sleepiness.

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Menopause involves hormonal changes that decrease your dose of progesterone, which has a negative impact on the brain to promote feelings of anxiety, which leads to a lack of sleep. The brain sends these signals to the rest of the central nervous system and leads to poor sleep quality and sleep problems. This imbalance plays a significant role in making you feel restless, nervous, and mentally preoccupied, so you end up having poor sleep quality or sleep deprivation.

How Do Hot Flashes Affect Insomnia?

Hot flashes are common complaints of menopausal women. Described as intense rises in body heat, this medical condition can last anywhere from thirty seconds to ten minutes and can happen periodically throughout the daytime. These hot flashes can be especially distracting when trying to complete tasks or engage in physical activity. However, most women cite hot flashes being a disturbance to their sleep quality and sleep duration.

Hot flashes can cause profuse sweating, which can be especially uncomfortable for women during the night, depending on the severity. Plus, they interfere with your beauty sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night to sweat-drenched blankets, pillows, sheets, and mattresses can make it difficult to relax and get restorative sleep. Turning down the thermostat may seem like a good intervention to lower body temperature, but this has risk factors. As the air conditioner cools the room, the damp blankets and sheets become cold as well, which leads to more sleep complaints. Sleeping on cold, wet patches of blankets does not have beneficial effects. Most menopausal women report losing hours of sleep before finally being able to rest after experiencing hot flashes at night.

With the hormonal imbalances that menopause causes, the chances of suffering from insomnia are very likely

Stress + Menopause = No Sleep

With the significant difference in your hormonal balance during menopause, you're at a greater risk of suffering from insomnia symptoms or sleep problems. Increasing your stress levels significantly affects the sleep quality of healthy individuals. Hormone regulation decreases during menopause, which means that hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin that are responsible for controlling mood swings can fluctuate.

So how does stress affect both mood swings and sleep quality? Stress is caused by an increase in adrenaline, the hormone commonly associated with the fight or flight response. Physical symptoms of stress trigger a fight or flight response of different variances. Work stress, family stress, relationship stress can all cause frustration and irritability, which increases adrenaline and halts relaxation.

In previous studies, an excess of adrenaline causes the body to become restless and the mind to become increasingly active, which lowers total sleep time. When this hyperarousal of adrenaline occurs, the mind sends signals to the rest of the body that it should be awakening, and drowsiness won’t set in. You may find yourself taking 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep or pacing back and forth across the carpet, staring at your bed instead of actually sleeping in it. All of this leads to poor sleep quality.

Most menopausal or premenopausal women experiencing stress-induced insomnia or sleep problems turn that nervous energy toward the source of the stress—work. Late-night spreadsheets, emails, financial reports, or the next day’s tasks can worsen stress levels. Feeding that stress before going to bed traps the mind in that adrenaline loop, leading to high blood pressure, depressive symptoms, and poor sleep. Taking care of your mental health and relieving stress can be a baseline to lead to better sleep. Sometimes you can make a significant improvement managing your stress with medication or probiotic supplements to help increase serotonin in less time and lead to relaxation instead of stress.

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With so many factors that feed into insomnia, how can women who are experiencing these symptoms get a good night's sleep?

There are a few things women can do to help reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality. Figure out the important steps to reduce your risk factors and lead to better sleep long term.

Reduce Caffeine Intake

Stimulants like caffeine can keep the body's levels of adrenaline high throughout the day and increase risks of stress. If you typically drink six cups of coffee throughout the workday, you may want to slowly siphon off your caffeine intake over an extended period of time. Start the first week off by consuming one less cup of coffee in a day, and then repeat that process the week after to lower your tolerance. Keep repeating that process until you've limited yourself to one or two cups of coffee a day. Depending on your hormone levels, years of age, and metabolism, this can have a huge impact. Beyond just sleep quality, this will help your gut health, digestion, and a depressive mood.

Take Supplements to Help You Throughout the Day

Many people rely on caffeine to keep them going throughout the day, and limiting the consumption of coffee or tea can cause withdrawal symptoms. So how can they maintain their energy levels without consuming too much caffeine? Healthy individuals take a variety of vitamins and supplements capsules to help increase and maintain energy levels throughout the day without the need for caffeine consumption. Long-term use of vitamin B-12, methyl folate, and other dietary supplements can help the body and immune system maintain healthy levels of energy and cognitive performance. Talk to your doctor about what supplements might play an important role in your overall health, give you energy, and aid your quality of sleep. There are also supplements to aid sleep quality that you can take in the evening.

Set an Alarm and Keep to It

It may seem counterintuitive, but waking up at the same time every day can help with sleep regulation and reduce insomnia. You may go to bed at 9 o'clock but not be able to fall asleep until midnight. To help get the body into a regular sleep cycle, wake up at the same time every day, regardless of how tired you may feel. Waking up at 7 o'clock in the morning could actually help you fall asleep around 9 o'clock at night. Habitual sleep efficiency prepares the body to fall into a natural circadian rhythm and aid sleep quality. So rather than snoozing that alarm for another ten minutes, create a motivation to get out of bed, even if you feel fatigue.

Understanding the effects of menopause on insomnia is the first step in finding the best solution to improve your sleep. These research studies can provide insight into the side effects and symptoms of menopausal insomnia.

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