Menopause and Insomnia – Some Tips for a Good Nights Sleep…
There is nothing quite like getting a good restorative sleep is there, but for an incredible amount of women this becomes a huge problem during the menopause. Insomnia being one of the most common symptoms during all stages of the menopause.
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Why is Insomnia One of the Most Common Symptoms of Menopause…
During perimenopause a woman’s oestrogen and progesterone levels start to decline, causing various symptoms to occur. Oestrogen contributes to a better quality of sleep, with progesterone acting as a ‘sleep promoting’ hormone as well. Ever notice pregnant women – they have higher levels of progesterone circulating throughout their bodies which can make them feel sleepy during the day…remember those days?! Think of progesterone as the calming hormone, contributing to a sense of relaxation and peace. So, with fluctuating and declining levels of hormones it makes sense doesn’t it that you might be experiencing problems with sleep, anxiety and wakefulness.
There are many other contributory factors though…
- Vasomotor symptoms – hot flushes and night sweats occurring whilst either trying to get to sleep or during sleep can be very disruptive.
- Anxiety, stress and low mood can all contribute.
- Pressures of family and every day life – being part of that ‘sandwich’ generation, with teenage children and elderly parents becoming increasingly demanding all play their role.
- In this day and age we all lead such busy lives don’t we with packed social calendars as well as frenetic work schedules with seemingly more and more demands on our time. Sometimes you just have to make a conscious decision to switch off and genuinely try and relax!
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is one of those unbelievably annoying symptoms, that irresistible urge to move your legs, having such a negative effect on anyone’s sleep. It can usually be relieved by activity, so getting up and walking about can help. RLS is known to follow a circadian pattern (the 24 hour natural process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle) with many women experiencing these symptoms throughout the evening, often with the worse symptoms during the night.
What can you do when insomnia hits…
- First and foremost is good sleep hygiene; what does that actually mean…well do everything you practically can to help yourself get a goodnights sleep.
- Lifestyle choices – make sure you eat a healthy diet, are well hydrated and try and get some exercise in during the day.
- Watch those alcohol and caffeine levels throughout the day, both are well known for contributing to sleep problems.
- Make sure you don’t have any technical stimulus in your bedroom…this is not an extension of your office! Try and leave your phone and laptop downstairs, your bedroom should be associated only with sleep …and sex!
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.
- Try and make subtle changes to your bedtime routine if you are having problems – having a bath before bedtime can really help you to relax, or reading a book; do something which is just slightly different.
- If you have problems actually getting to sleep don’t lie in bed fretting about it. Classic advice is to get up if you haven’t managed to get to sleep after 20 mins, leave the bedroom, go and do something which doesn’t involve any technical stimulus for 15 mins or so, then go back into bed and try again. Keep repeating this and gradually your body will hopefully slip into a different pattern.
- If you find you are getting up during the night because of urinary or vaginal problems then make sure you address those problems and it will help enormously. Likewise with hot flushes and night sweats.
- What you wear in bed can make a massive difference – think natural fibres. There are several companies who make fabulous nightwear (as well as day wear) using natural fibres which wick the moisture away from your body…anything to help with those night sweats is worth investing in, or just sleep ‘au naturale’ and don’t worry about your partner or husband having to sleep in subzero temperatures…he can always invest in some thermal PJs!
- If you and your partner/husband really struggle with needing different temperatures – one throwing the duvet off with the other one reaching for more layers – a good idea can be to have separate duvets of differing weights, so you’re more comfortable.
What else can help…
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help for some women, you are replacing the oestrogen and the progesterone so not only are you helping with those vasomotor symptoms but the progesterone can help with insomnia as well. The way you take the progesterone part of HRT can make a difference, with oral progesterone seemingly having a better effect for insomnia symptoms than taking it via a different route.
- Relaxation therapy or paced/diaphragmatic breathing can really help. It not only helps switch off your brain from having hot flushes and night sweats but helps with anxiety and stress; calming and slowing the pace of breathing down and giving you something to focus on rather than being stressed about not getting to sleep.
- Something to consider – the blue light emitted from our LED screens contributes to insomnia and eye strain. The ideal scenario would be to switch off all electronic devices an hour before you go to bed, but I realise for most of us that is highly unlikely! A good idea is to switch on the filter on your smartphones and laptops that helps to reduce the intensity – just go into your settings.
Never underestimate the advantages for your body of getting a good nights sleep. Not only does it obviously make you as a person feel better but long term has an impact on mental health, cardiovascular health and bone health.
'As with any information developed for Fountain Retreats the information in this post is accurate at time of posting and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from your health care professional regarding a medical condition’
About the author...
Author, Qualified Nurse
Ruth is a qualified nurse, gaining her registration and working at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
She is passionate about providing women and employers with evidence based information and support, helping women to make informed decisions about how to manage their menopause and so improve their quality of life.
She has been asked to contribute on several occasions on various media platforms including, Radio 4s Woman’s hour, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Borders, the BBC Insiders Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark and BBC breakfast.
Ruth is married with three children, three dogs and a cat, loves cycling, playing netball and tennis, spending time with family and friends and has a great sense of humour.
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