Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances

I am tired all the time. While there are periods throughout our lives when we can’t get a good night’s sleep, for some women, it becomes a real problem during menopause. Insomnia is when you can’t get adequate sleep, have difficulty falling asleep or can’t stay asleep. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Overtime, the lack of good sleep can hurt our health and wellbeing. Anxiety, irritability, stress, forgetfulness, headaches and gastrointestinal issues are just some of the things that happen to us when we aren’t getting enough sleep.

In our recent survey about menopause, almost half of the women who responded said they had experienced insomnia.

So, why are we having sleep issues at menopause?

Hormonal changes (the decrease in estrogen and progesterone) cause changes to sleep patterns in many women. Progesterone is a sleep-inducing hormone. With less of it available, it may take us longer to fall asleep.

Some of the other symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and night sweats, also interrupt our sleep. The rapid fluctuation of hormones and adrenalin can make it hard to fall back to sleep once woken by a hot flash.

What else can impact our sleep?

Some medications can interfere with sleep, so if you’ve started taking a new medication or supplement, check the label or product insert to see if sleep disturbance is listed as one of the side effects.

Stress can also mess with your sleep pattern. The more you can do to minimize stress levels, the better your chances of a good night sleep. Other disorders like anxiety and depression can also lead to insomnia.

Eating late at night can impact your sleep as well because your body is digesting food while you’re trying to sleep. Drinking caffeine and alcohol too late in the day can also impact how you sleep.

What can be done to treat insomnia?

There isn’t really a “cure” for insomnia, but there are a lot of things you can do to improve your sleep, such as:

  • Keep your bedroom as cool as you can tolerate it. Cooler rooms help to stave off hot flashes and night sweats and help the body to relax and sleep longer.
  • Darker is better. Make sure all lights are off and your phone and alarm clock lights are dimmed.
  • Quiet please. Shut off anything that could make noise during the night and potentially wake you.
  • Try to stop eating earlier. If you have something small to eat before bed, it’s probably not a big deal, but a big meal could put a real damper on your deep sleep. Heartburn and acid reflux can happen when you go to bed with a full belly.
  • Meditate before bed. Taking a few minutes to relax, calm your body and your mind can help to bring on sleep and alleviate the stresses of the day.
  • Stop smoking. It’s horrible for your overall health and it can keep you from getting good sleep too as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. Although we often think of alcohol as a sedative, it can also keep you from getting deep, rejuvenating sleep.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help with estrogen levels, but you must weigh the risk of side effects with the benefits.
  • Melatonin is hormone used to regulate sleep cycles in the body. Some people take a Melatonin supplement to help fall asleep, but it isn’t advised for long-term use.
  • Stay hydrated. The body needs water for so many important reasons and getting a good night sleep and staying alert when awake are two of them.
  • Adjust your sleep time to accommodate your changing body. Have you always been a night owl? Well, you may need to go to bed earlier during menopause. If you find yourself getting sleepy earlier in the night, listen to your body. Don’t fight it. Go to bed when you start to feel tired. You can get up earlier to tackle whatever else you wanted to get done.
  • Be consistent. Once you’ve figured out when you are feeling tired and how many hours you need to sleep each night, be consistent about when you go to bed and when you wake up.

If insomnia or sleep disruption is a real problem for you and nothing seems to make it better, talk to your healthcare provider. A thorough medical exam may help to identify what’s keeping you up and how best to improve your sleep.

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