Menopause and sleep: They can be rebellious roommates.
The Sleep Foundation puts the number of menopausal women dealing with insomnia (and feeling less satisfied with their sleep in general) at 61%,1 but if you’re the one fighting to fall asleep and stay asleep, that number feels more like 100%.
The beginning of sleep woes
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Starting with perimenopause — the gradual period of time before your periods officially come to a permanent halt — your sleep might take a big hit. It’s no wonder, with all the major hormonal and physical changes happening to your body.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in their 2017 National Health Interview Survey, stated that “women may be particularly vulnerable to sleep problems during times of reproductive hormonal change, such as the menopausal transition.”2
If you’re struggling with insomnia and menopause, you’re not alone. Read on to learn what may be behind your sleep struggles and some science-backed tips to help you get the rest that you need.
This hormone helps your body use serotonin and other neurochemicals that promote sleep.4 When estrogen is higher, it can spread its wealth with benefits like positive moods, skin elasticity and — you guessed it — sound sleep.5,6
With menopause, estrogen begins to decline, which can impact your sleep. One of the common early signs of menopause is insomnia.2
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Hot flashes and night sweats, hitting at the most inopportune times, another fallout of declining estrogen levels, affect up to 85% of women around menopause, according to the National Sleep Foundation.1 And when they hit at night, it’s especially problematic. Many women wake up before they even feel that power surge; that’s when their body temperature begins to rise. Before too long, they’re drenched in sweat, with a pounding heart and a burning desire to jump into a bathtub filled with ice.
And even though your total sleep time may remain the same eight hours or so, your sleep quality due to frequent wakings throughout the night — will likely suffer (a good reason you feel like you’re dragging the next day).
Progesterone is also at work here. Higher levels may promote a sense of calm, which can boost feelings of relaxation, and in turn, facilitate sleep.7 But when progesterone’s production wanes — as with menopause — you may suffer from anxiety and restlessness, leading to insomnia and frequent night wakings.
Maybe you’ve noticed your sleep is interrupted by an overactive bladder. Waning levels of estrogen can cause changes in your urinary tract and reduces its ability to control urination.8 Studies confirm that bladder symptoms are associated with women in menopausal transition.9 While researchers concur that waking up to urinate (nocturia) one time per night is within normal limits, anything more than that can wreak havoc on your sleep.10
Get better rest with these 5 sleep hygiene tips
If you’re experiencing insomnia during menopause, there are tips that can help you sleep more soundly. Getting good rest goes beyond waking up feeling refreshed in the morning: It’s a key part of maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. With a little planning and self-care, better sleep can be within your reach:
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1. Avoid large meals, especially around bedtime. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say there’s evidence that eating a large meal prior to bedtime — especially if it’s a fatty meal — can make it harder to fall asleep.11 Check out the four worst foods for sleep.
2. Watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but it will prevent you from sleeping soundly and may cause you to wake up during the night (not only that, but it can derail your weight loss goals). The stimulating effects of caffeine can take as many as 20 hours to wear off, reports the North American Menopause Society.12 To avoid feeling restless, try to taper your beverage intake a few hours before bed and stick to sipping water.
3. Mind the light. According to the National Sleep Foundation, blue light from devices like laptops, phones and tablets can interfere with sleep by delaying the release of melatonin, a natural sleep-promoting hormone.13 So power down (or dim the screen) at least an hour before bed. A dark room also helps signal your body it’s time to sleep.
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4. Manage your hot flashes. A bedside fan, light pj’s and bedding can help; so can stashing an ice pack underneath your pillow (when you flip it, you’ll get cool relief!).
5. Quiet your mind. Techniques like guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga can help promote sound sleep.14 Another way to calm your thoughts: diaphragmatic breathing. Research indicates this type of breathing may help reduce anxiety and stress as well as promote weight management.15,16
Want more ways to get a better night’s sleep? Check out these 10 sleep hygiene tips and hit the hay early tonight!
If you’re struggling with menopausal weight gain — Jenny Craig can help. Check out our different menu plans and get started on the path to better health today.
Sheryl has penned hundreds of print and online articles for publications and websites, including Parade, AARP, Chicago Tribune, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Everyday Health, WebMD, HealthyWomen, CNBC and many others. Her writing reflects her deep passion and curiosity about nutrition, health, beauty, fitness, and wellness.
Favorite healthy snack: watermelon (a big bang for the buck!)
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
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