Menopausal woman with insomnia touching alarm clock while eyes open.

Primary Ways Menopause Impacts Your Sleep and How to Resolve Them

While it is true that getting quality sleep becomes more difficult with age, it’s also true that the issue is complicated further by menopause.  Menopause is a term which refers to the end of a woman’s fertility cycle.  According to Medical News Today, the average age of menopause in the United States is 51 years and, according to this study, hot flashes and associated risk factors can last ten years on average.  But that’s not to say there isn’t anything you can do to shorten the negative sleep symptoms related to this major life transition.  The causes of insomnia related to menopause are multiple, as related in this National Institute of Health article.  Let’s look at the primary ways that menopause impacts your sleep and how these issues can be resolved.

Hot Flashes

Women experiencing menopause often have hot flashes.  Hot flashes are due to oestrogen deficiency, and involve a surge of adrenaline which awakens the brain from sleep, causing sleep disruption.  It causes night sweats and changes of temperature which cause discomfort and difficulty falling asleep as well as maintaining it.

Oestrogen and Progesterone

During perimenopause and into menopause, the ovaries start to make less oestrogen and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone.  Such hormonal changes are associated with the unpleasant experience of insomnia.  This is partly because changes in the ratios between hormones can lead to difficulty relaxing or outright anxiousness, making it difficult to fall asleep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, loss of oestrogen levels can also contribute to sleep disruption via environmental and other factors and stressors.  To find out more about the topic of insomnia as it relates to menopause, see this National Sleep Foundation article.

Signs of Hormonal Imbalance

What are some signs that hormonal imbalances may be a culprit in the unpleasant experience of insomnia?  As mentioned with hot flashes, night sweats are an indication of hormonal changes.  Also, irregular periods as well as vaginal dryness and, you guessed it, those unpleasant sleep disturbances that leave you tired all day can all be signs of hormonal imbalance.  Additionally, unusual mood swings are also a sign of the onset of perimenopause and related hormonal imbalances.  Other signs of a hormonal imbalance, according to this Medical News Today article, are unexplained weight gain or loss, excessive sweating (daytime or night), changes in sensitivity to heat or cold, blood pressure changes, dry skin or  rashes, changes in heart rate, brittle or weak bones, irritability, unexplained long-term tiredness, headaches, cognitive changes and depression.

What can be done about these imbalances?  There are multiple options.  Let’s look at the most commonly-discussed first.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone-replacement therapy is a treatment that involves returning the body’s hormonal levels to those of before menopause, thus relieving related symptoms.  It works by supplementing the oestrogen hormone, which reduces hot flashes and other discomforts.  One approach is to try a low-dose birth control pill, which can stabilize mild fluctuations in oestrogen.  However, it is perhaps important to note, as this NIH article states, that hormones are not always successful in treating sleep problems in midlife and beyond.  Naturally, you should always consult your doctor and trust the professionals rather than taking treatment into your own hands.

A more natural approach to HRT that you might like to consider is BHRT or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. This involves exact copies of your natural hormones being replaced according to need – and can include oestradiol and oestriol, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and pregnenolone. The actual prescription can be finely tuned according to your needs and response by a specialised BHRT doctor, such as Dr Allie.

Natural Remedies

In addition to hormone-replacement therapy or BHRT, other things can be done to promote better sleep.  These include making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet as well as cool to promote relaxation and healthy, uninterrupted sleep.  Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine – particularly late in the day— can also have a big impact on one’s ability to sleep.  Consider also keeping a cloth in a bucket of ice near your bed at night to cool yourself quickly in the advent of hot flashes.  Exercise, including walking, going to a gym or yoga, are shown to help with relaxation and improved sleep as well, as long as it is copleted at least 1 hour before bed time. I recommend that you ensure that you don’t eat any later than 3 hours prior to your chosen bed-time, as eating later promotes insulin release and digestion, and can interfere with good quality sleep.  And finally, massage and certain aromatherapy oils can help particularly with relaxation.

Sleep disturbance is a common element of menopause, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.  Work with Dr. Allie to improve your sleep patterns, supported with herbal supplements and BHRT where needed.  Contact us today.

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