What are Menopause Sleep Issues?
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries cease to produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This is a natural part of the aging process, and signifies the end of a woman’s child bearing years.
The loss of these hormones creates a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including, but not limited to, hot flashes and trouble sleeping. Hot flashes and excessive sweating affects about 80% of menopausal women, and can affect their quality of sleep and lead to daytime drowsiness, in addition to other problems.
Signs and Symptoms Related to Menopause and Sleep
Typical symptoms of menopause may include painful intercourse, increased irritability, hot flashes, frequent urination and night sweats.
Other symptoms of menopause can include anxiety, mood swings, migraines, depression, heart palpitations and osteoporosis.
How Menopause Affects Sleep Patterns?
Disrupted sleep is a hallmark symptom of menopause, and the top causes of sleep disorders are fibromyalgia, irregular breathing and insomnia due to depression.
Changes in mood and attitude are more common among females during menopause than during any other time of hormonal changes.
The increased need to get up and urinate several times a night certainly has a direct impact on sleep patterns, and the achieving of a healthy and restful night’s sleep.
Restless leg syndrome, which naturally increases* with age, affects women during menopause and can cause major disruptions in normal sleep patterns.
What is the Cause of Most Menopause Sleep Disturbances?
Nighttime sweats is the number one cause of menopausal women losing sleep, but sleep apnea, hyperthyroid and restless leg syndrome may also be a cause of middle aged women losing quality and restful sleep.
It is possible that when estrogen levels decrease*, the chances of developing sleep apnea may increase*. It has been researched that over 50% of menopausal women also have restless leg syndrome, and that may cause sleep interruption.
Depression increases* in premenopausal women and insomnia (trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep) is a prime symptom of depression.
Is lack of Serotonin a Major Problem?
Serotonin is a chemical that helps to relay signals from one area to another (in the brain). Serotonin is not only found in the brain, but also in the blood platelets and the digestive tract.
Most of the 40 million cells in the brain are directly influenced by serotonin, which includes appetite, mood, sleep, memory, body temperature and possibly some social behavior.
Serotonin levels may also have a direct effect on the endocrine and cardiovascular systems.
Treatments to Relieve Menopause Sleep Problems
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been a common treatment for menopausal sleep problems. This type of therapy comes in a pill form, a cream or a patch applied to the skin’s surface. When estrogen and progesterone hormones are artificially replaced, it has been shown (in long term studies) that the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and blood clotting may increase*. To avoid these risks, HRT is prescribed in the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time possible and watched closely by a trained medical professional.
If your menopausal symptoms are minor and hormone replacement therapy is not an option for you, try some of these tricks to help you sleep better:
- Sleep clothing made of cotton (or other natural fibers) may feel more comfortable while you sleep.
- Wear loose fitting clothing to bed.
- The sleep area should be kept cool and well ventilated.
- Spicy foods may increase* sweating, so try to avoid them (especially right before bedtime).
- Keeping a damp cloth or some water nearby can quickly cool you off if you wake up during a hot flash.
- Many people allow their pets to sleep on their bed; animals throw off a ton of heat. Banning them may keep your body temperature low.
- Keep a regular bedtime schedule.
- Napping during the day may hinder your ability to sleep well during the night.
- Soy products contain a plant based hormone referred to as phytoestrogen (which is similar to a weak version of estrogen), and may be helpful to some women.
- Some women find that a low-dose birth control pill can be helpful with menopausal symptoms, and they may stabilize the minor fluctuation in estrogen levels.
- Black Cohosh (available in drug stores and vitamin shops) has been known to successfully treat* hot flashes in some women.
- Avoid excess stress as much as possible. Relaxation techniques, such as massage, deep breathing and mediation have been said to be helpful.
- Acupuncture is also an effective alternative treatment for relieving menopausal symptoms.
- Drinking 6 ounces of diet tonic water daily, approximately 30 minutes before bedtime may relieve some restless leg syndrome symptoms.
- Taking Melatonin before bedtime may also help you achieve a good night’s sleep.
Consult with your health care professional as to the best treatment for your symptoms.