Sleep plays a vital role in so many bodily functions that when this part of our lives starts to fall away we really feel it! Menopause Insomnia is one of the most common menopause symptoms which is reported by 39 to 47 percent of perimenopausal women and 35 to 60 percent of postmenopausal women.
A bad night's sleep every now and then is not the end of the world but if a good night's sleep continuously becomes difficult to achieve then this can have detrimental effects on our mental health, heart health, cognitive functions and even risk of osteoporosis!
The optimal amount of sleep is around 7-8 hours per night but the amount we actually need is individual. As a good rule of thumb if you are waking up a lot during the night and you feel your sleep isn’t restful then that is a good sign you are not getting enough sleep or deep enough sleep.
Types of sleep problems during the menopause include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Non-restorative sleep that isn’t great quality sleep
- Fatigue and sleepiness during the day
How Does the Menopause Affect Sleep
The decline in estrogen during the menopause contributes to broken sleep mainly due to symptoms this drop in hormones causes such as night sweats, hot sweats, anxiety and depression.
Research into menopause sleep has shown that women often wake during the night just before a hot flash is about to occur which means that putting into place tactics to reduce night sweats plays a big role in combating menopause insomnia.
“There are changes in the brain that lead to the hot flash itself, and those changes — not just the feeling of heat — may also be what triggers the awakening,” she says. “Even women who don’t report sleep disturbances from hot flashes often say that they just have more trouble sleeping than they did before menopause.” Pien, John Hopkins
Can Menopause Insomnia be treated
Studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy improves sleep quality, decreases nighttime wakefulness and enables falling asleep more easily. However HRT poses some serious health risks for some women, particularly for those who have had blood clots, strokes, heart attacks and certain types of cancers.
An alternative to HRT for menopause insomnia is CBD. CBD restores hormonal balance providing possible relief from menopause sleep disturbances amongst other symptoms for many women.
Levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) increase in the morning but for people who suffer from insomnia these levels sometimes increase in the night which is associated with higher night-time awakenings. One study found that CBD actually decreases the levels of cortisol compared to a placebo control group and a 3-month follow-up showed that 66.7% of participants had improved sleep quality.
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Top Tips For sleeping better during the menopause
To combat menopause insomnia naturally we recommend:
- Exercise: Athletes apparently have much better sleep quality than other people which means exercise can help you. You don’t need to be an athlete but a healthy exercise routine can make a difference!
- Avoid Alcohol: We all need to let our hair down and do things we enjoy but if you enjoy a glass of wine most evenings try and limit it to the weekend and see how this affects your sleep.
- Avoid Caffeine: Try alternative hot drinks like herbal teas. Caffeine is known to trigger lower quality sleep during the menopause due to increased hot flashes in the night. Rooibos tea for example shares many of the same benefits as caffeinated drinks such as reducing fatigue but is caffeine free!
- Develop a bedtime routine: Make sure you relax and switch off from the stresses of daily life an hour before bed: Relax, unwind and do something for your mind and body (meditation, yoga, reading..)“Just as we recommend that kids have a regular bedtime and wake time, trying to do that as an adult also helps your body know when it's time to go to bed,” Pien says.
- Natural Supplements & Diet: Invest in some good quality supplements and eat healthy: Lots of vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs etc. and cut out processed and spicy foods
- Don’t wear synthetic fabrics: Wear loose clothing to bed. Clothing made of natural fibers, like cotton for example.
The best way to combat menopause sleep disturbances is to change certain behaviours combined with either medicines or alternative methods such as CBD.
Every woman's path here is very unique and personal so the key is to try out different things and see which yields the best results.