One of the things that plagues women during menopause is lack of sleep. There are many reasons why you might not be getting the sleep you need.
Last night my adult son was later getting home than I expected. Do you think I could get to sleep before I heard him come in the door? Meanwhile, my husband is snoring away. It seems that as a mother there is always something to keep you up at night. For some women it is work stress. You may be at a point in your career where stress is at its highest. Add in the changing hormones and it is a recipe for insomnia. But there are things you can do to ensure that you are getting the best sleep you can on most nights.
During menopause the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone levels can cause sleep issues in several ways.
- Estrogen helps with sleep by helping the body use serotonin, the sleep hormone.
- Changing hormone levels can result in hot flashes (or night sweats) which interrupt sleep.
- Increased feelings of anxiety is also a common symptom of menopause that tends to disrupt sleep. Lower estrogen and progesterone levels contribute to higher anxiety for women.
Why does sleep matter?
Not getting enough sleep has several consequences, some of them surprising:
- Lack of sleep makes mood swings worse
- If you are already feeling like you have no energy, then a lack of sleep will only make that worse
- Not getting enough sleep can prevent you from losing weight. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it slows down your metabolism. It also causes your body to store extra calories as fat (especially in the belly)
- Inadequate sleep can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Going through menopause your hormones are already messed up, but a lack of sleep can disrupt hormones as well. Your thyroid hormone, appetite hormone and stress hormones can all be disrupted.
What can you do about it?
There are several ways that you can improve your sleep naturally during perimenopause and after menopause.
- Start a bedtime routine that lets you wind down before bed. For many women, turning off screens before bed is helpful. Some women like to do some quiet meditation, write in a journal or read a book before bed. Some women like to spend this time making a list of things they need to do tomorrow. It seems that the act of writing it down empties it from your mind.
- Exercise during the day is helpful, but too close to bed can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Try to keep your bedroom cool at night. This is especially true if you suffer from night sweats. A cooling towel like this one from Koldtec can be kept by your bed if heat is keeping you awake. Moisture wicking pyjamas can also help with night sweats.
- Keep your room dark with heavy drapes or blinds. If that is not possible, use a sleep mask.
- Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and hot flashes. If racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, then you might want to look into starting a meditation practice.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or in the evening. Caffeine stays in your system for several hours and can have an effect on how you sleep. It is not just coffee that contains caffeine. Tea (black, white and green), energy drinks, some pain killers, soda, and chocolate all contain some levels of caffeine.
- Low carb diets may also have an effect on sleep. If you find yourself wired in the evening with a low carb diet, you may need to consume some carbohydrates a few hours before bed.
- Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D (from sunshine or from supplements).
- Avoid consuming too much alcohol. Too much alcohol before bed may disrupt your sleep patterns.
Lack of sleep is a major issue for women during menopause. It can affect your health and your wellbeing. Consider trying some of these ideas to improve your sleep. If you are looking to relieve hot flashes, then start with this free guide.