Menopause is a change that middle-aged women go through where their menstrual cycles stop and their ovaries stop producing eggs. Women, around age 40, will begin to stop producing estrogen and progesterone, a phase called perimenopause. One year after their last menstrual cycle, they officially hit menopause and enter postmenopause. Throughout these three phases, there are abrupt changes in hormones that can negatively impact sleep. Keep reading to find out how sleep can be impacted by menopause.
How menopause can impact sleep
Women's ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, both hormones that are heavily involved in bodily processes that involve sleep, mood, sex drive and moore. Lower levels of progesterone may also impact breathing drive, which may lead to issues of sleep apnea and other sleep issues.
Estrogen plays a role in the metabolism of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that impact sleep-wake patterns. Estrogen also helps to keep body temperature low at night for more efficient and comfortable sleep. Estrogen can also induce an antidepressant effect, so those who have lower estrogen often have higher body temperatures, worse moods, and worse sleep patterns.
Menopause symptoms that affect sleep
Due to the changing in hormones, it's no surprise that women in menopause experience hot flashes, sleep-disordered breathing, insomnia and mood disorders that can impact sleep.
Hot flashes are sudden and unexpected sensation of heat all over the body, accompanied by sweating. They begin in the face and spread to the rest of the body, and can be as short as 30 seconds or as long as 5 minutes. Hot flashes affect 75-85% of women around menopause and they typically last 7 years, but can last more than 10.
Insomnia is a chronic difficulty in falling or staying asleep that happens more than three night s a week. Those with insomnia experience restless sleep and miss out on overall sleep. Insomnia can also contribute to feelings of irritability, poor memory, increased headaches and inflammation.
Sleep-disordered breathing is another word for snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, reducing the amount of space for airflow. This can result in small pauses of breathing, before the body wakes up to begin breathing again. Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to severe sleep deprivation, but also may be hard to catch unless reported by a partner.
Depression and anxiety are two mood disorders that may be impacted by menopause and and can contribute to poor sleep quality and/or quantity.
Tips for sleeping better with menopause
Hormonal treatment like estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) may be effective treatment measures for menopause which may in turn treat other symptoms including hot flashes and insomnia. However, there are some lifestyle changes that may also assist.
Maintaining a healthy weight and diet are a good way to help reduce the effects of obstructive sleep apnea. Women tend to gain weight after menopause, so by avoiding large meals and spicy or acidic foods, women may see a decrease in their sleep apnea and even hot flash events.
Avoiding nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the late afternoon and early evening can also help with sleep quality as all three may disrupt sleep and reduce quality.
Reducing stress, as well, is a way to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Anxious thoughts can disrupt or prevent sleep, so massages, exercise, and yoga can help to lower stress levels. If women are feeling depressed or anxious, it may be helpful to speak with a behavioral health professional.
Also, creating a bedtime routine may train the brain to get ready for bed. Having a regular sequence of events can help help reduce stress, as well as coach the body into what bedtime looks like.
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