Sleeplessness In Menopause

April 18, 2011

Insomnia or Menopause?

How many times have you wondered what it would be like to have a good night's sleep? Many women in their 30s and 40s check in with their doctor for sleeping medication to deal with symptoms of insomnia. Often, what is happening to them is perimenopause, those years before menopause actually arrives. The transition can be a long one, and there are many factors that can affect sleep in women during this period.

Along with the standard symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, migraine headaches, anxiety, fatigue and depression (doesn't sound like much fun, does it?), insomnia ranks right up there when it comes to menopausal issues. Often, the symptoms of menopause themselves are enough to wake a woman from sleep. Sometimes several of these symptoms occur almost simultaneously, which makes for a very interesting day or night.

Addressing Symptoms of Menopause

While some women still opt for HRT as a way to address symtpoms of menopause, the proof continues to indicate that standard hormone replacement therapy is not good for you. Options include bHRT, which incorporated bio-identical hormones rather than chemically manufactured hormones (as in HRT), herbs, alternative treatments and a healthy lifestyle. Hormone drugs are not recommended for women who have an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer - which is all women from 35 to 50 years of age and older - who happen to be the women who are perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal.

What's Happening?  Why Can't I Sleep?

How does menopause rob you of sleep? Hormonally, during menopause the body gradually decreases the amount of estrogen and progesterone (both important sleep hormones) in order to move away from reproduction. When these hormones shift the results can be unsettling, making you more sensitive to environment disturbances that can disrupt your sleep. Hot flashes are one of the most common effects of this decrease of hormone production. A hot flash is a surge of adrenaline and it awakens your brain from sleep. As body heat goes through the roof, sweat pours out of every pore in your body and you are anything but comfortable. You have to wait this out and sometimes it can take a while. Of course, by the time you've cooled off, you need a change of sleepwear.

Additional Challenges

Estrogen loss is also tied to mood swings and in about 20% of menopausal women, to depression. Life stresses become exaggerated when hormones are out of whack, often robbing you of sleep as you ponder difficult or negative situations continually.

Top the hormonal complexities with life in your 40s, 50s and 60s and you've got yet another reason to stay up all night - or at best sleep in two hour segments. Kids moving out, empty nest syndrome, coming to the end of a working life and thinking about retirement, downsizing or dealing with chronically ill elders, can all place additional stress on the mind and emotions. These can steal sleeping hours as well.

Become Proactive and Create a Sleep Environment

While there isn't much you can do about the hormones (you're going to go through menopause one way or another), there is something you can do about your sleep habits that can enhance your ability to get a good night's rest. By taking charge of your sleep routine you may be able to stack the deck in your favor when it comes to sleep. Start by being consistent with wake up times and allow yourself enough time to fall asleep at night. Build a solid sleep environment by making your room dark and quiet. It should be a haven, safe and comfortable. Keep the heat down as low as you can, after all you're making enough of your own heat. Smoking and drinking just increase and negative impact menopausal symptoms, so don't smoke or drink before bed especially (better to quit altogether). A bucket of ice water and a cloth close by can be useful when you're too hot to sleep and too tired to get up.

If the symptoms keep you up or wake you up every night, check in with your practitioner for some non-toxic ways to deal with it. Life always looks brighter when you've had enough sleep.

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