Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?

Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?

Did you know sleep problems and menopause are related?

Lower oestrogen and progesterone levels in women not only cease the periods and result in menopause, but also have other effects on your body including sleep problems. Studies show that normal levels of oestrogen hormone help a woman fall asleep easily. 

As women age, they complain of sleep problems and menopause could be one of the reasons!  

Sleep problems are one of the commonly experienced symptoms of menopause. The problem aggravates as you age and is more prominent in postmenopausal women. However, sleep disturbances start in the perimenopause stage. 

Read on to know more about the different types of sleep problems associated with menopause. 

Different Sleep Problems and Menopause

The US National Sleep Foundation states that around 60% of the menopausal women experience sleep problems. The sleep problems could be due to insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes, snoring, sleep apnea and other conditions. 

Insomnia and Menopause

According to the US National Sleep Foundation, the risk of insomnia increases during menopause. It states that about 61% of the postmenopausal women experience the symptoms of insomnia. Sleep problems could be due to the decreasing levels of progesterone that is also a sleep-producing hormone.

Insomnia is a sleep problem where individuals find it hard to sleep or stay asleep. These individuals also experience restless sleep, wake up early, do not get full night sleep, feel tired and sleepy in the day. When individuals experience these symptoms for more than three nights a week, it is described as Insomnia. 

This sleep disturbance increases irritation, anxiety, headaches, memory problems and concentration problems.

Sleep Apnea and Menopause

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which an individual’s breathing frequently stops and starts. It is a serious disorder that is marked by snoring, gasping for air in sleep, morning headache, insomnia, waking up with a dry mouth, irritation, concentration problems and tiredness even after a full night’s sleep. 

When the oestrogen and progesterone hormones are at high levels, they control the muscle tone of the airways and prevent it from collapsing. However, with the onset of perimenopause, the dwindling hormonal levels, the risk of sleep apnea increases. 

Studies show that the problem of sleep apnea is the lowest in perimenopause women at 0.6%. However, it is a moderate level in postmenopausal women on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at 1.1% and at 5.5% without HRT. So, hormonal treatment may reduce the threat of sleep apnea problem in menopause. 

Restless Legs Syndrome and Menopause 

It is found that Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) affects around 69% of postmenopausal women. In RLS, you experience tingling and creepy-crawly sensation in your legs at night. According to the US National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of RLS is more prominent in women suffering from vasomotor symptoms in the perimenopause stage but not in women on HRT.

Other problems conditions that may lead to sleep disturbances could include depression, anxiety and other sleep disorders.

Sleep Problems and Menopause – Treatments

Studies show that treatments used to reduce menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats and other signs can also have a positive effect on your sleep. 

  • HRT for menopause and sleep disturbances

HRT is known to effectively reduce hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbances in women. In HRT, synthetic hormones act as oestrogens and progesterone and improve the hormonal levels in the body and reduce menopausal symptoms.  

HRT can be used as a pill, skin patch or vaginal cream. If you have not undergone hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) you will be given a combination of oestrogen and progesterone to improve your sleep. However, if your uterus is removed, you will be given oestrogen only.   

Remember, HRT is not a long-term treatment because it can adversely affect your health. Consult with your doctor and discuss all the health concerns before choosing this treatment.   

  • Mild anti-depressants  

Your doctor may recommend certain anti-depressants in smaller doses to treat your sleep problems, mood swings and depression. 

  • Non-hormonal therapy

You can also consider taking non-hormonal therapy if you are not a suitable case for HRT. In this treatment, you may be recommended certain dietary supplements made of soy products and flaxseeds that effectively decrease the severity of menopause symptoms. Products, such as Femarelle act selectively on the oestrogen receptors in your body and reduce the symptoms without side effects.   

  • Over the counter medication

You can get low-doses of melatonin over the counter to improve your sleep. Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that decreases with age. Still, it is best to get a prescription from your doctor.

  • Alternative remedies

You can consider alternative remedies to reduce menopausal symptoms and sleep problems. Take black cohosh, tofu, soybeans, red clover or ginseng to improve the situation. You can also try yoga, meditation and acupuncture to improve your sleep. 

How to Manage Sleep Problems During Menopause?

Follow these tips to improve your sleep through the menopausal transition and beyond:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  
  • Cultivate a bedtime habit, such as taking a bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music or any other activity that can induce sleep. 
  • Keep the sleeping environment pleasant. Avoid noises. 
  • Keep the temperature of your bedroom as per your comfort. 
  • Avoid screen time at the night. Do not work till late in the night on laptops or computers. 
  • Avoid sleeping in the afternoon or evening.
  • Exercise every day. Do not work out close to bedtime.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals for dinner.
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening or after dinner.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.

A good night’s sleep can refresh you for the whole day and new challenges. On the contrary, bad sleep or restless in the night can leave you exhausted and drowsy the next day. Do not ignore any signs of sleep problems and consult with your doctor at the earliest. 

Take the recommended medications for sleep problems and menopause and get a full night’s sleep. Night sweats, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sudden chills and other menopause symptoms can also disturb your sleep. So, increase the low levels of depleted oestrogens, progesterone and other hormones to reduce the sleep problems and menopause symptoms.