Menopause and Sleeplessness- The 3 A.M Wake Up Call

Around 50 and feeling physically and emotionally drained? This could very well be the onset of menopause. Hormones play a very important role in maintaining body functions. Therefore, cessation of menstruation with menopause and plummeting of oestrogen levels during this phase can wreck havoc in a woman’s life. One of the most prominent complaints of menopause is ‘sleeplessness’.

It is no secret that good sleep is the key to a healthy life and is our body’s natural way of shutting off and recuperating from the entire day’s activities. Lack of quality sleep during menopause can have an adverse effect on one’s mental and emotional function. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of menopausal women suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. Insomnia is the most frequent complaint, occurring in up to 56% of menopausal women. Some others may develop restless legs syndrome, snoring, or sleep apnea (gasping breath during sleep). Hot flushes alone cause women approaching menopause to briefly rise 100 times a night—around three times more than a woman who is not. Research also states that in some women sleep disturbances start about 7 years before menopause, making sleeplessness a possible predictor of its onset.

Two hormonal changes during the menopausal transition were associated with sleep problems: decreasing levels of estradiol and increasing levels of follicle stimulating hormone. “The SNC or hypothalamus of the brain is where one has the axis for the sleep/wake cycle and the axis for all the endocrine glands that affect monthly reproductive rhythms,” says Dr. Yan-Go, neurologist and psychiatrist, as well as the medical director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. She further adds, “They’re all linked together like an orchestra, so when one cycle is out of whack, it tends to sideswipe the others as well. When perimenopause arrives with its roller-coaster ride of hormonal ups and downs, the entire orchestra gets out of sync, and disrupted sleep is frequently the result.”

Is There A Way To Get Back Your Beauty Sleep?

It is not that perimenopausal women don’t fall asleep. They just don’t remain that way through the night. And sometimes women aren’t even aware of how often they wake. Says neurologist Harry P. Attarian, M.D., director of the University of Vermont sleep center, “if you’re falling asleep during the day when you don’t want to, or if you wake up after a good night’s sleep and feel as though you haven’t slept at all, then you should be talking to your physician.”

Menopause is a natural occurrence in every woman’s life, not a disease marked by oestrogen deficiency. So why not treat it naturally without medical intervention. Here are some tips to help manage menopause and sleep problems associated with it:

  • Avoid substances like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, especially before bedtime
  • Choose foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Eat smaller meals, more often
  • Make sure you get enough calcium and Vitamin D
  • Reduce anxiety and stress by learning relaxation techniques (try guided relaxation audio). Keep a radio at your table with soft music available to calm your mind. Don’t watch TV in bed – it stimulates your mind and provides distracting light in the room.
  • Maintain bedtime and waking schedules to promote better sleep routines
  • Get some exercise. Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise for women of all ages, and you will learn some great poses to use for relaxation at night.
  • Keep cool. Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing when hot flashes come

Menopause and insomnia are a lethal combination, when all you are looking for is restful and uninterrupted sleep. Hormone replacement therapy is sometimes offered to replenish lost oestrogen during menopause, but it comes with a baggage of associated risks such as heart disease, stroke etc. Sleeping pills and other such chemical aids interfere with one’s natural sleeping cycles and is therefore not a viable treatment option. The best approach to fight menopause sleeplessness is to live a cleaner lifestyle (physical activity, balance diet, reduced alcohol and caffeine consumption) together with taking essential mineral supplements that have been depleted by the menopause process, mainly calcium and magnesium. Sleeping like a baby yet again might be possible if an earnest effort is put into lifestyle modifications discussed above.

Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME