Menopause Insomnia or sleep disorder is another symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Insomnia can become chronic insomnia. U.S. statistics show that the rate of insomnia rises at a rate of 40% during the transitional phase of perimenopause to postmenopause.
Are you counting sheep?
Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep?
Are you constantly tugging sheets, thumping your pillow and worrying about the fact that you can’t sleep?
You are not alone!
Menopause insomnia can be a contributing factor in many menopausal conditions:
Lack of sleep leads to irritability and mood swings which lead to increased stress levels which can trigger heart palpitations and hot flushes.
Sleep is absolutely critical to our general health and well-being. It helps us to look good and feel vital and it has been known to help with weight loss.
It used to be that insomnia in women was related to night sweats, however, it is becoming increasingly recognizable that menopause and insomnia are directly linked with or without night sweats.
Research shows that insufficient sleep leads to diminished function during the daytime, irritability, lack of concentration, weight gain, depression, anxiety, higher risk of accidents, damage to business and relationships and weakens our immune system. During menopause this is even more overwhelming for women as you are dealing with shifting hormone levels as well as the stresses of every day life. Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognised as an essential feature of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Insufficient sleep is now linked to chronic conditions and diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.
On average a healthy adult requires 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night. The hormone responsible for sleep is melatonin. There is a chemical called serotonin which helps to produce melatonin. Unfortunately, during perimenopause and menopause we experience a reduction in our estrogen levels and it is this reduction which affects the production of serotonin.
Decreasing levels of progesterone as well as estrogen may cause menopause insomnia.
Progesterone: This hormone has a sleep-inducing effect so when levels decline so does the ability to fall asleep soundly. Progesterone is also linked to insomnia and the inability to fall asleep promptly.
Estrogen: Estrogen is linked to hot flushes and night sweats which disturb the sleep of menopausal women. A decline is estrogen is also linked to sleep apnea and it slows down the intake and secondary production of magnesium; a mineral that helps muscles to relax. It is only by maintaining the hormone balance that we can enjoy natural sleep patterns. It is not advisable to rely on sleeping tablets as these can become addictive and cause additional problems. If you can get your hot flushes and/or night sweats under control using natural remedies or methods you should be able to maintain a natural sleeping pattern and you may find that your menopause insomnia symptoms reduce significantly.
Menopause and hormones aside, there are several other risk factors that can make some women more prone to sleep disorder, these include: high blood pressure, obesity, age, drug use, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle, night shifts.
Sleep disorders can include a variety of symptoms and conditions with some being more common. If you are experiencing any of the following, it is likely that you have one or more types of sleep disorder.
- Awakening several times during the night.
- It takes more than 30 minutes for you to fall asleep.
- Sleepwalking or talking during sleep.
- Snoring, choking, gasping.
- Concentration difficulties or memory problems.
- Feelings of paralysis when you awaken.
Types Of Sleep Disorders
Although studies indicate that between 70-80 types of sleep disorders may exist today, the most commonly reported in relation to menopausal women are:
- Menopause Insomnia
- Narcolepsy (causes periods of daytime sleepiness)
- Sleep Apnea (causes abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of low breathing during sleep)
- Restless leg syndrome (causes a strong urge to move your legs)
Useful Suggestions To Overcome Menopause Insomnia
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- If you are experiencing night sweats make sure there is proper ventilation.
- Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is conducive to sleep.
- Changing to organic temperature regulating bedding may be beneficial.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark.
- Avoid watching T.V. or reading in bed as these are both stimulating activities.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
- Do not eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Depending on your bladder – calcium helps you to sleep so a warm milk drink (without sugar) or herbal tea such as chamomile may help.
- Do not have caffeine in the evening – it can take up to 8 hours for the effects to wear off.
- Do not exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Do not nap during the day.
- Try meditation or relaxation techniques.
- If you are sensitive to noise or if your partner snores, wear ear plugs or on occasions sleep in a different room.
- Tense and release the muscles in your body, one by one. This will help to alleviate stress.
- Repetitive exercise puts you to sleep, so counting sheep or repeating a string of numbers can help to stimulate the theta waves in your brain, which is what happens when you are drowsy.
- Keep a notebook by your bed – to record your worries.
- If you feel cold, wear socks.
- Don’t bring up any sensitive subjects that require either thought or discussion before bedtime.
- Don’t go to sleep angry – for obvious reasons you are in for a restless night!
- Hide the clock so that you don’t clock watch or put it in another room – as long as you can hear the clock in the morning – as the morning is when most of us menopausal women want to sleep – right?
- Don’t avoid going to the bathroom as it will prevent sleep and you will have to get up eventually.
- Don’t lie awake worrying that you can’t get to sleep. If you are awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something and go back to bed when you are tired.
- Lavender oil, sandalwood oil or jasmine oil on a pillow or next your bed can help you to maintain a deep sleep.
It would be impossible for most busy women to try all of the above suggestions, however, trying a few of them to see if they work for you may be beneficial to achieving the sleep pattern that you crave.
Breus, Michael. Menopause and Sleep retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52110
American Review of Respiratory Diseases, (1992) Vol. 145, “Are postmenopausal women at increased risk of sleep disordered breathing?”
Love, Susan M.D.(2003) Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press