Perimenopause and menopause can make it difficult for you to fall asleep or wake up in the morning. It can let you feel sluggish throughout the day, influence your work and relationships; it can even affect your health by compromising your immune system, mental concentration, mood, weight, and more. If you do not sleep for at least 7 hours a night, you probably suffer from insomnia. And you’re in good company. Many women in perimenopause and menopause share your struggle.
Is there a connection between menopause and insomnia?
Women who have menopause often have sleep problems. In fact, about 61 percent of postmenopausal women experience frequent episodes of insomnia.
Menopause can affect your sleep cycle at three different levels.
Your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during menopause. This can trigger a number of changes in your lifestyle, especially in your sleep habits. This is partly because progesterone is a sleep-producing hormone. While your body faces these levels of hormones that are decreasing more and more, it may be harder to fall asleep and harder to stay sleep.
Hot flashes and night sweats are two of the most common side effects of menopause. As your hormone levels fluctuate, you may feel as if you have sudden increases and body temperature drops. In fact, you feel an adrenaline surge caused by the rapid decrease in hormones. It’s the same chemical responsible for your reaction to stress, combat or a flight scenario. Your body may have difficulty recovering from this sudden surge of energy, making it difficult for you to fall asleep again.
Sleep apnea has been seen in the past as a sleep disorder in men, but this vision is changing. Studies have shown that night sweats and hot flashes may be associated with an increased risk of sleep apnea and appear to be more common in women with surgical menopause than natural menopause. It can also be associated with weight gain, and there is a possible role of progesterone.
Progesterone has an effect on muscle activity in the back of the throat, as well as a respiratory stimulus, so the decrease in progesterone can contribute to partial obstruction of the upper respiratory tract and reduce respiratory pulse. Sleep apnea is not just strong and gasping snoring.
Sleep apnea in women can also manifest itself in other ways, including headaches, insomnia, depression or anxiety, and daytime fatigue. Not all women snore or snore hard while they sleep.
Natural Sleep Aids for Insomnia
Natural sleep aids can help solve occasional menopause sleep problems. But it is important to remember that some natural sleep aids are attached in the same place in the brain as prescribed sleep medications. And, like prescription drugs, natural sleep aids can lose their effectiveness over time. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland of the brain in response to light and dark cycles. It helps your body regulate its sleep-waking cycles, so it can be good for travel-related insomnia. Natural melatonin secretion is also affected by depression, shiftwork, and seasonal affective disorder (ASD). The usual dose is 0.5-3.0 mg, taken one hour before bedtime.
improves the quality of sleep. It also helps to stabilize mood, relax muscles, calm joint and muscle pain, and contributes to the health of the heart and bones.
This amino acid found in tea leaves increases levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine — soothing neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, sleep and energy. Increasing the levels of these chemicals helps sleep, as well as mood swings related to menopause, difficulty concentrating and changes in appetite during menopause.
5-HTP (5—hydroxytryptophan) increases serotonin, which is converted to melatonin. This is why 5-HTP can be useful for interrupting sleep mode, as well as for premenstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorder. The initial dose is 100 mg, three times a day. Gradually increase for several months to 200 mg, three times a day.
A popular supplement for all health, flax seeds contain lignans whose studies show that they can reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Research also indicates the benefits of flaxseed for cardiovascular health and its role in reducing cholesterol.
What can you do about it?
There are also non-addictive natural remedies that can help you sleep a complete night. But before you spend money on them, try these simple lifestyle changes that could solve your sleep problems.
To avoid hot flashes and night sweats, make sure that the temperature in your room is comfortable and low. Wear breathable cotton sleepwear, whether you prefer pajamas or nightgown, and choose cotton sheets on synthetic materials. Before going to bed, consider taking a cold shower. If you wake up from hot flashes (or for some other reason), do not torture yourself lying awake in bed. After 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you start feeling asleep. Worrying about not sleeping can stop you from sleeping!
If anxiety during menopause keeps you awake at night, try a relaxation technique like meditation, yoga or deep breathing to eliminate stress. Do it as a nightly ritual, like brushing your teeth. Soothing sounds or pleasant reading can also numb you to sleep. If hot flashes are not a problem, take a hot bath — the water is relaxing, and you can prepare the ground for sleep.
You may need to improve your sleeping environment. Many people realize that their mattress has lost support and needs to be replaced. Remember that you spend a third of your life asleep! Most mattresses need to be replaced every 10 years, at least. Maybe enjoy beautiful new bedding. Make sure your bed is a glorious paradise!
Do more exercise, preferably early in the day. It does not need to be a great sweat workout. Take a quick walk for 15-30 minutes per day, whether to or from your office or in a meeting on foot. Drop in for a table at lunchtime. Take the stairs. The more you move during the day, the better you sleep at night.
Set an alarm for 90 minutes before falling asleep. When the alarm goes off, all screens should also. Research has shown that bright screens reduce melatonin (sleep hormone) levels by 50% and that this reduction can last 90 minutes. We need melatonin to help us fall asleep!
Take a good multivitamin/mineral daily.
Taking nutritional supplements can greatly contribute to your overall health. When you are healthy, you are more likely to sleep quietly, including those caused by medication and pain. In addition to multivitamin and mineral supplements, you can take an antioxidant supplement every day.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation. Vitamin E can also help reduce stress and risk of depression, as well as protect the heart and brain. Research also suggests that vitamin E can help postmenopausal women who have hot flashes and night sweats.
B vitamins have a wide range of benefits that can be useful for menopausal women, including reducing stress, protecting the immune system, increasing energy and mood, and protecting cognitive functions, including memory. In particular, vitamin B6 increases the production of serotonin, which can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Serotonin also participates in the production of melatonin, the essential sleep hormone.) Vitamin B12 has been shown to increase energy and reduces the mental and physical symptoms of fatigue.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for women of all ages and can be of particular value for menopausal women. Technically, vitamin D is considered a hormone when it is produced by the body naturally in response to sunlight. It is important for bone health: a lack of vitamin D can expose women to a risk of weakening bones, bone injury and bone pain, especially with age. Vitamin D can also help maintain a healthy weight. I have already written about the potential benefits of vitamin D for sleep and the science that suggests maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D can improve both the quality of sleep and the amount of sleep you get.
Herbal remedies can be an effective helper for sleep. They are not commonly associated with side effects that people may experience with many conventional drugs. These herbal remedies include:
Valerian herb This is perhaps the most popular herb used to help sleep. It has a tranquilizing effect because it decreases activity in the nervous system. It can be found in tinctures like:
Night Essence contains a mixture of floral essences and is designed to help you sleep at night.
Herbal teas such as chamomile, jasmine or lavender that help relax body and mind to induce sleep.
There are also herbal remedies to help with night sweats if these are the root of your sleep problem. The most important of them is sage, which rebalances the mechanism of regulating sweat in your brain.
Alcohol can help you relax and fall asleep, but it should not be used as a sleep aid, as it has a bounce effect. It can disturb your sleep later and make you wake up in the middle of the night. Milk contains a substance called tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin helps to control sleep habits, appetite, pain and other functions. Milk does not contain enough tryptophan to change sleep habits, but drinking a glass of milk before bedtime can help you relax.