Around 60% of women experience sleep disorders during menopause. Insomnia can make your working day very long and cause stress to your overtired body. When I went through menopause, the lack of quality sleep affected me the most.
Insomnia is a real problem for women going through perimenopause and menopause. Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you get inadequate or poor-quality sleep. Signs that you could have insomnia include:
- Finding it difficult to fall asleep
- constantly waking during the night
- waking up too early in the morning
- feeling unrefreshed when you do get up
We will have a look at a few of the reasons why your sleep is disrupted during menopause and some of the ways you can sleep better at night.
Menopause insomnia vs a bad night’s sleep
How do you know whether you are just having a bad night's sleep? Or is it insomnia? Let us look at the difference between the two.
If you have been having trouble sleeping for an extended period (three months or more) and it affects your daily life, you could have chronic insomnia. If you are at an age where you could be going through perimenopause or menopause, you could have chronic insomnia caused by menopause.
This study found that insomnia is one of the main symptoms of menopausal women. Symptoms of insomnia can include:
- struggling to fall asleep
- frequent waking in the night
- unable to get back to sleep
- daytime fatigue, problems concentrating and memory loss
The study also discovered that getting insomnia increases with women's age.
- 16% to 42% in premenopausal women
- from 39% to 47% in perimenopausal women
- from 35% to 60% in postmenopausal women
A bad night’s sleep can be a temporary occurrence caused by several factors, including:
- stressful life events,
- changes in routine
- the death of someone close.
Both adults and children can experience short-term or chronic insomnia; however, the condition is more prevalent in women than men. If insomnia symptoms last less than three months, you may only have short term insomnia.
Why is it hard to sleep during menopause?
It's hard not to feel frustrated as you toss and turn, trying to get to sleep even though you are desperately tired. It's hard to sleep when your body goes through the massive changes caused by menopause.
As women begin perimenopause and begin the sometimes-long journey to menopause, many factors can cause sleeplessness and chronic insomnia, including:
- hot flashes
- weight gain
- hormone fluctuations
Let's take a look at the problems women experience during menopause that can contribute to sleepless nights and insomnia.
Hot flashes may cause sleep issues.
If you are going through perimenopause, you will know the familiar and all too frequent feeling of a hot flash and how it can cause sleep issues. Couple that with a cosy bed, and you can feel like you are about to combust!
It is thought that hot flashes occur due to a change in circulation. Blood vessels close to the surface widen to cool the skin. A hot flash can feel like a sudden heat that travels across your upper body, causing sweat and a fast heart rate. Once the hot flash is over, you can find that you feel chilled due to the vast amount of sweat that cools your body down.
PROBLEM: Hot flashes can make sleeping difficult
SOLUTION: While there is not much you can do to avoid a hot flash; you can help to reduce them by avoiding triggers such as:
Some women find that if they wear loose clothing, turn on a fan at night and take a water-filled pillow to bed, and they can lessen the effects of a hot flash.
Menopausal weight gain can cause insomnia
Weight gain during perimenopause or menopause is prevalent due to hormone fluctuations and a general slowing down for many women. This excess weight can cause insomnia.
High insulin and cortisol hormones at this time can cause some unwanted weight gain. When cortisol levels increase during menopause, our bodies become resistant to insulin, which increases blood sugar and causes unwanted weight gain.
Low melatonin levels accompany high insulin and cortisol levels. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that helps your brain respond to darkness and your internal clock, or circadian rhythms.
Your circadian rhythms are the way your body links the sleep-wake cycle with day and night. This study shows how low melatonin levels have a far-reaching impact on the menopausal body, not just our sleep cycles.
PROBLEM: Weight gain during menopause can interrupt your sleep
SOLUTION: A weight loss program that targets diet and exercise can help you lose weight. Additionally, taking melatonin supplements can also restore your sleep-wake cycle caused by raised cortisol and insulin levels. Other benefits from taking melatonin include:
For further information about weight-loss during before and during menopause, read these articles:
- How to get rid of menopause belly naturally
- Best natural appetite suppressant teas
- How to stop gaining weight from anxiety
- You can lose weight and belly fat by drinking Hibiscus Tea
- Best weight loss teas in Australia
Hormone fluctuations can cause sleeplessness
Cortisol and insulin are not the only hormones changing in our menopausal bodies. The main culprit, oestrogen, is to blame for sleeplessness and a range of other menopausal symptoms.
At perimenopause, around 45 – 50, oestrogen levels begin to decline. Common symptoms of menopause around this time are hot flashes, which seem to be more common at night. For further information about hot flashes and anxiety, please read this article:
Another symptom of hormone changes that is potentially dangerous is sleep apnoea. This sleep-related breathing disorder can result from lowered levels of oestrogen and the by-product of reduced magnesium levels.
Sleep apnoea is when you starve your brain of oxygen because your breathing stops and starts suddenly. Magnesium promotes muscle release, and low levels increase the likelihood of sleep apnoea.
PROBLEM: Hormone fluctuations can cause sleep apnoea
SOLUTION: Hormone replacement therapy can help balance your fluctuating hormones and the resulting lowered levels of magnesium which can cause sleep apnoea.
For further information about hormone imbalance, read this article:
It is hard to sleep during menopause for many reasons. The main reason would appear to be the fluctuating hormones that are causing many symptoms of menopause that cause us to lose sleep. When sleep is hard to come by, we can develop chronic insomnia, a more severe condition than ordinary sleeplessness.
How to get better sleep during menopause
If disruptions keep you from your sleep, you will find it challenging to get through each day. You can take some measures to restore your previous good sleep habits.
Getting a better sleep during menopause can be achieved by increasing or commencing an exercise routine or trying a relaxation and stretch class such as yoga. Some women report excellent results through hormone replacement therapy.
Exercise can help to restore your sleep patterns
Moderate aerobic exercise can help you sleep better and restore your sleep patterns during perimenopause and menopause.
Moderate aerobic exercise of just 30 minutes a day increases the level of your endorphins, which will make you feel in a better frame of mind and help you sleep better. So, what is classed as moderate aerobic exercise?
According to the Australian Government Health Direct guidelines, moderate physical exercise should make you feel a bit breathless and can include activities such as:
- brisk walking
- golf (without a gold cart)
- aerobics classes
It is important to note that timing your exercise is vital. Exercising too late in the day can cause brain activity, making it difficult for you to fall asleep. Those endorphins can work the opposite way and make you want to party all night instead of getting a night of restful sleep!
Hormone replacement therapy can stop insomnia
While hormone replacement is not for everyone, some women have reported positive results and find that a hormone replacement program can stop insomnia and other symptoms of menopause.
HRT can be given as a pill, patch, or vaginal cream. It is usually a dose of oestrogen, with some women also requiring progesterone. Your health professional will be able to advise you of your requirements.
This study found that oestrogen replacement significantly improved sleep quality and facilitated falling asleep while reducing wakefulness and restless sleep patterns in the study subjects.
Yoga can improve your sleep during menopause
If you have ever practised yoga, you know the benefits to your body and mind. Depending on which style of yoga you choose, it can be a gentle restorative way to start or finish your day. Yoga can be a relaxing stretch for your body, focusing on breathing and movement.
This study shows that women can experience some improvement in their sleep patterns when they do yoga classes. The yoga practised for this study was Vin yoga style over 90 minutes.
People who practice yoga regularly also report that their stress levels, caused by raised cortisol hormones, are lower with regular sessions. Other benefits can include:
- helps to alleviate mild depression
- Stretches the body
- Tones muscles
- Improves digestion
- It helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
There are many options available to women during menopause when it comes to getting better sleep. Commencing a moderate exercise routine, partaking in a yoga class, or trying hormone replacement therapy can have successful outcomes.
The best Teas to improve sleep during menopause
A calming cup of tea when you are feeling overtired and unable to sleep can help to improve your sleep during menopause.
Some teas such as chamomile, lavender and valerian are known for relaxing properties. When sipped before bed, they can help you to slip into slumber while improving the quality of your sleep patterns disrupted by the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Let us look at some of the teas available to you.
Chamomile tea is the relaxant you need to sleep
Chamomile tea is a calming and soothing tea that has been utilised for centuries to induce sleep and calm a busy mind. If you sip chamomile as a part of your bedtime ritual, you may drift off to sleep quicker due to the relaxant qualities of the tea.
This study demonstrates that chamomile extracts can exhibit a benzodiazepine-like effect to induce sleep in the recipients.
Benzodiazepines can be found in anti-anxiety drugs to calm the mind. For more information about how chamomile tea can help with anxiety during menopause, read these articles:
You should drink a cup of chamomile tea 45 minutes before bed for the best effect. Forty-five minutes will give your body time to metabolise the tea and allow the chemical compounds to kick in.
Lavender tea can send you to sleep quicker.
Who doesn't love the natural scent of lavender?
Lavender Tea not only smells good, but it tastes delicious, and as a bonus, it can help you fall asleep quicker. The tea is entirely safe to drink, and it contains the minerals zinc and potassium, which are known for their anti-insomnia properties.
This study shows that lavender caused the study participants to experience less fatigue due to experiencing a better sleep cycle.
Lavender tea consumed just before bed can prepare your mind for sleep as it acts as a relaxant. The benefits of lavender don't just extend to better sleep. Other benefits include:
- Anxiety treatment
- Reduced inflammation
- Digestion aid
- Antioxidant properties
For further information about why lavender is so good for sleep, read the following article:
Valerian Tea is a natural sleep aid
Valerian root tea is nature's sleep aid or nature's Valium. Valerian root powder may reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and improve your sleep quality overall.
Valerian reacts with the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in your body to induce sleep. The GABA helps to regulate nerve impulses in your body. Increased GABA can cause a sedative effect and send you to sleep quicker.
The receptors found in valerian can also interact with your body’s serotonin receptors to give a feeling of well-being, regulating your mood and sleep cycles.
Valerian root powder can also be a treatment for anxiety. For further information, read this article:
Ashwagandha tea can induce sleep
What if you could use a versatile remedy in your cooking and sip as tea? There is!
Ashwagandha Tea which is also available in powder form is also known as Indian ginseng, has the active ingredient trimethylene glycol15, which is responsible for sleep promotion and a better night's sleep.
The tea can be consumed as a hot or cooled beverage, while the powder can be sprinkled in your cooking or mixed up into a latte.
This study found that Ashwagandha has sleep-inducing potential and can improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia.
For further information about the many benefits of Ashwagandha, read the following articles:
Black Cohosh is a popular women's supplement often used to treat menopause symptoms. While it has not been proven to help with insomnia, it can treat some of the symptoms of menopause that cause sleeplessness.
The active ingredient, phytooestrogen, is thought to mimic the hormone oestrogen and help when oestrogen levels drop during perimenopause and menopause.
This study found that black cohosh increased sleep efficiency and decreased waking after falling asleep in menopausal women. This could have been due to reduced menopause symptoms after taking black cohosh.
For further information on solving sleep problems, read the following article.
The teas that are best for treating sleep disorders or insomnia during menopause have calming and relaxing properties such as chamomile, lavender, valerian, Ashwagandha, and black cohosh.
When should you see a doctor?
You should always seek medical advice if you are feeling out of control and have tried to improve your sleep patterns by following exercise recommendations and natural therapies.
If you think that hormone replacement therapy could help you, a medical doctor will be able to prescribe the correct dose and monitor your reactions closely.
If your anxiety levels are high and you are experiencing depression or panic disorders seek help immediately by contacting your doctor or Beyond Blue. There is always help when you need it.
Women going through menopause are subject to many body and mind changes, but the one that must be the most taxing is lack of sleep or insomnia. As discussed, factors such as hot flashes, night sweats and unwanted weight gain are caused by hormonal changes during menopause.
It can be very frustrating when your lack of sleep impacts your everyday life. So, it is comforting to know that there are many ways you can treat insomnia, from implementing an exercise routine to taking up yoga, sipping on lavender or ashwagandha tea or even hormone replacement therapy.
While the changes can be very challenging, know that there will be an end, and soon you will be sleeping deeply once again!