During their late 40s and early 50s, women go through menopause as their ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because of the connection between sleep and hormones, menopause symptoms can disrupt sleep.
Sleep and menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep apnea
Sleep and Hormones
As estrogen levels begin to decline in the years leading up to menopause, many women experience hot flashes. These hot flashes cause difficulty sleeping in about 40 percent of menopausal women, according to the National Sleep Foundation (2009).
Menopause may bring on other sleep-related problems. Post-menopausal women may develop serious sleep-related disorders, such as sleep apnea. About 61 percent of post-menopausal women suffer from symptoms of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation (2009).
Loss of sleep can create a domino effect that impacts health, mood and brain functions during waking hours. If problems with sleep and menopause symptoms are negatively affecting daily activities, talk to a doctor.
Tips for Handling Sleep and Menopause
Women who experience sleep problems during menopause can take steps to get a restful night’s sleep.
Increasing physical activity can improve sleep quality and overall health. Menopausal women may wish to include weight training exercises in exercise routines to build muscle mass and combat osteoporosis. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime, since this can disrupt sleep.
Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can cause sleep disturbances, so limiting intake of these substances may improve sleep quality. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or breathing exercises can help combat menopause symptoms that affect sleep.
Estrogen Supplements, Sleep and Hormones
Estrogen and progesterone supplements in pill or patch form can counter low levels of the hormone that may contribute to ongoing sleep and menopause symptoms. This approach, called estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), may help relieve menopausal symptoms in some women, but has also been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart problems. Talk to your doctor about possible risks and whether ERT or HRT is right for you.
Diet, Sleep and Menopause
Menopausal women may want to try to get more calcium and vitamin D to combat menopause symptoms. Dairy products and sun exposure can help you get more of these essential nutrients. Soy products, such as soymilk and tofu, may help lessen hot flashes in some women because they contain phytoestrogen, a hormone from plants that is similar to estrogen.
In general, the key to improving sleep for menopausal women is to improve overall health. By taking measures to limit or prevent other signs of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes, women can minimize, and even eliminate, sleep disruptions.
Women who take the above precautions and still suffer from sleep disorders should talk to a doctor, as their trouble sleeping may a symptom of another treatable medical condition.
Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2010). Sleep and menopause. Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/menopause/hic_sleep_and_menopause.aspx.
Jelovsek, F. (2006). Sleep disturbances: Menopause and melatonin. Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://www.wdxcyber.com/nmood18.htm.
National Sleep Foundation. (2009). Menopause and sleep. retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/menopause-and-sleep.