Insufficient sleep increases your risk of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Long-term sleep deprivation can also adversely affect a variety of cognitive functions. Unfortunately, trouble sleeping is common during menopause and the years leading up to it. Changes in hormone levels during this time can lead to a number of menopause-related symptoms that make it hard to get a good night’s rest. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to help get a better night’s rest.*
Sleep and menopause
If you have a hard time sleeping during menopause, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of people in perimenopause, the several-year span before menopause is officially reached, experience difficulty sleeping. After menopause, this number increases to up to 60%.
During perimenopause, the ovaries start making less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. As these hormone levels decline, it is common to start experiencing many of the hallmark symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats, breathing irregularities, and changes in mood. All of these can interfere with your ability to get quality sleep.
Common sleep problems during menopause
Hot flashes and night sweats are among the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting up to 85% of people. They are the symptoms that most frequently send women to seek hormone therapy and other treatments during perimenopause. They are thought to be caused by hormonal changes to the brain’s internal temperature regulation functions.
After menopause, people are more likely to develop sleep apnea. It’s thought that decreased progesterone levels allow the muscles in the airway to relax and interrupt regular breathing while sleeping.
Anxiety and depression are also common during perimenopause and menopause, which can make sleeping problems worse. Unfortunately, poor sleep can feed mood symptoms the following day, which in turn, could make it difficult to sleep again that night, creating an uncomfortable and unhealthy cycle.
How to get a better night’s sleep
If you’re struggling to get quality sleep during menopause, speak with your doctor. Depending on your specific situation, they might suggest a prescription medication or over-the-counter relief, like melatonin, but they will likely encourage you to try at-home remedies first.
Here are some things you can do on your own to promote a better night’s sleep:
- Make time to move. Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health during midlife. It helps with anxiety and weight management and significantly reduces your risk of disease. Numerous studies have shown that it can also reduce insomnia, sleep apnea, and a number of other sleep-related conditions.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The food you eat is another vital aspect of overall health during menopause. Evidence shows that consuming caffeine or a large meal too close to bedtime might keep you awake at night. Likewise, studies show that regularly consuming too many calories or high-fat foods can make sleep difficult. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E are important nutrients for good sleep.
- Create a sleep-promoting environment. Set your bedroom to a cool temperature, and try putting a fan nearby to encourage air circulation. You can also stay cool during the night by wearing lightweight pajamas and using breathable linens, like cotton sheets.
*Pacheco, D. (2022, May 6). Menopause and Sleep. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/women-sleep/menopause-and-sleep