If you’re currently going through pre-menopause or menopause, you know that it doesn’t just come on in a vacuum. There is a lot going on in your life right now, whether it’s caring for aging parents or for children who may be transitioning into adulthood, or dealing with the regular stresses of life that come from having a demanding career and trying to stay active. Your life doesn’t get put on hold just because of this change in your hormones. You still need energy, which means you still need sleep, but great sleep is unfortunately hard to come by during menopause. Let’s take a look at why, as well as some tips to help you get the best sleep possible.
Menopause and sleep loss
The last thing anyone with a busy life needs is to be suffering from sleep loss, but unfortunately, this is a reality for an overwhelming majority of women experiencing the symptoms of menopause. Two of the hormones which go into a steady decline during menopause—estrogen and progesterone—are also two very important sleep-promoters in our body. The loss of these hormones often translates to prolonged insomnia for many women going through menopause.
Of course, insomnia isn’t the only cause of sleep problems during menopause and pre-menopause. The decline and fluctuations of the hormone estrogen lead very often to hot flashes, which are a substantial cause of sleep interruptions for women in this period of their lives.
As you probably already know, hot flashes are unexpected feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating. Leading up to a hot flash during sleep, body temperature rises, causing an awakening. Hot flashes can last on average for three minutes, with the accompanying sweat sometimes requiring the changing of bed clothes or bed linens, leading to further loss of sleep.
These frequent awakenings rob you of sleep time and sleep quality, which can lead to constant next-day tiredness. Most women can experience hot flashes for about a year, with 25% experiencing them for an even longer period.
So: whether it’s due to hot flashes or general insomnia, you know that you’re not sleeping great—now what can you do about it?
How to improve your sleep
First things first—we should make sure that we’re keeping up the habits of ever-trusty sleep hygiene:
Try out a relaxing activity before bed every night such as meditation or journaling. Make sure to speak with a behavioral health specialist if you are feeling depressed or constantly anxious.
Keep your bedroom cool, completely dark, and quiet.
Keep screens out of the bedroom, as the blue light can keep your brain from beginning the sleep process.
Cut off caffeine around 2 p.m. in order to get it out of your system before bedtime.
Exercise daily, ideally in the morning, making sure not to exercise during the two to three hours before bed as this can keep sleep from setting in.
For hot flashes specifically, avoid eating spicy or acidic foods, as these may be a trigger.
If you are experiencing a constant lack of sleep that you believe is due to insomnia, we strongly recommend that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible. They may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, which connects you with a therapist that can help you ease the the anxiety connected with getting to sleep, as well as make sleep habit recommendations specifically suited for you.
Don’t quit on sleep
Whatever methods you choose to help get your sleep back, we want to make sure that you do not settle for a lack of sleep even when going through pre-menopause or menopause. Sure, it’s tougher to get great sleep while going through this phase but a little extra attention to your sleep health and sleep hygiene goes a long way in helping to combat some of the unfortunate sleep effects of this phase. Getting good sleep at any age is vital as a boost to your health and a protection against bodily deterioration, and we cannot recommend it strongly enough.