Are you suffering from insomnia? You’re not alone. Insomnia is a common problem faced by many women during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
The hormonal shifts happening in your body during this time of transition are usually to blame.
For some, having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep only happens occasionally. But for others, it can be a nightly occurrence.
Moderate to severe menopause-related insomnia can be a debilitating condition to live with. A chronic lack of sleep has a knock-on effect on almost every aspect of your life. It impacts your work, relationships with family and friends, and ability to thrive.
But thankfully, several treatments and interventions can help. In this post, we’ll explore the relationship between menopause and insomnia. We’ll also look at ways to tackle sleep disturbances so you can wake up feeling well-rested and ready to embrace the day.
How Common is Insomnia During Menopause?
Women are already more likely than men to suffer from chronic insomnia. But the chances of developing this sleep complaint rise dramatically during perimenopause and into post-menopause.
More than 40% of women in their late 40s and early 50s experience sleep disturbances. And the problem appears to get worse with age. More than 60% of postmenopausal women suffer from regular sleepless nights.
Why Does Menopause Cause Insomnia?
The average woman reaches menopause at 52. For several years before this, she will experience perimenopause. This is a time when the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone are in a state of constant flux. This can lead to several undesirable symptoms, including insomnia.
As a woman gets closer to menopause, the hormones produced by her ovaries gradually decrease. During this time, sleep disturbances become even more common. Research suggests that this is partially caused by lower levels of estradiol, a specific type of estrogen.
Yet while hormonal shifts are a major driving force behind insomnia in perimenopausal and post-menopausal women, they aren’t the only cause. Other symptoms of menopause, particularly hot flashes and night sweats, can also lead to sleep disturbances.
Hot flashes are sudden and intense feelings of heat that sweep across the body at seemingly random intervals. They can cause flushing and sweating. Night sweats are essentially hot flashes that occur during the night.
Maybe you’re already familiar with waking up with soaked sheets. This type of vasomotor symptom affects more than 75% of women during this transitional time. And when it happens regularly, the quality and duration of your sleep can take a big hit.
Other Causes of Insomnia During Menopause
Menopause-related insomnia is the result of a reduction in reproductive hormones and an increase in symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. But some other factors can also contribute to the problem.
Anxiety and Depression
The quality of your mental health can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. This explains why more than half of all adults with generalized anxiety disorder also suffer from sleep disturbances.
Anyone can develop a mental health disorder at any time during their lives. But conditions such as anxiety and depression are particularly common in women going through menopause.
Lower Levels of Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the body. It’s crucial for sleep, as it regulates our circadian rhythms and sends signals to the brain that it’s time to drift off.
Yet, as we age, our levels of melatonin begin to decrease. This means less sleep overall and an increase in sleep disturbances.
Post-menopausal women are more likely to develop sleep-disordered breathing issues such as chronic snoring and sleep apnea. The latest science seems to show that these conditions are influenced by lower levels of progesterone, a hormone that dips dramatically during menopause.
Both chronic snoring and sleep apnea can reduce the amount of time you spend in the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep.
Will My Insomnia Go Away After Menopause?
Every woman is different. Some may find relief once they reach menopause (when they haven’t had a period for more than 12 months.) For these women, their insomnia was most likely caused by a sudden fluctuation of hormones in the body. Once these fluctuations stabilize, insomnia (and symptoms like night sweats) reduce or go away.
But unfortunately, many women do continue to suffer sleepless nights for several years into their post-menopausal journey.
There’s no way to predict how long your menopause-related insomnia will last. However, there are plenty of ways to ease your sleep disturbances and maybe even get rid of them altogether.
How to Find Relief from Menopause-Related Insomnia
If you regularly struggle to drift off or wake up frequently in the middle of the night, you’re probably feeling exhausted. But thankfully, there are treatments and interventions that can boost the quality and duration of your sleep.
Medical Treatments for Menopause-Related Insomnia
Conventional medicine offers several different treatment options for menopause-related insomnia, including:
1. Hormone therapy
Insomnia caused by fluctuating hormones can be treated by hormone therapy, also known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
There are several different types of hormone therapy available, but each one works by replacing the missing hormones responsible for your symptoms.
And the good news is that many women do indeed see a huge improvement in their symptoms. Insomnia can decrease, and night sweats can be reduced. In some cases, they may even disappear completely.
Hormone therapy can be administered topically in patches, creams, and gels, and it can also be taken in pill form or via an implant.
However, it’s important to remember that hormone therapy isn’t for everyone. Some forms of this treatment carry a long list of side effects; in many cases, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.
If you’re interested in learning more about hormone therapy and how it can help your insomnia, talk to your doctor. They’ll let you know if you’re a suitable candidate and discuss the pros and cons with you so that you can make an informed decision.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are medications normally prescribed to treat depression. But, they can also be used off-label to ease some of the symptoms of menopause.
These medications are particularly useful when it comes to treating vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. So, if waking up drenched in sweat each night is costing you sleep, it’s worth talking to your doctor about your options.
However, just like hormone therapy, SSRIs and SNRIs also carry several risks. One of the most common side effects of these drugs is actually insomnia. So, they should always be taken with caution and under medical supervision.
3. Sleeping pills
Benzodiazepine medications such as Valium and Xanax are effective sleep aids. They also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety that often accompany menopause. That being said, doctors are often reluctant to prescribe sleeping pills to aid menopause-related insomnia because they can be very addictive. These types of medicines also come with several potentially serious side effects. So, they are not recommended as a long-term solution.
Supplements for Menopause-Related Insomnia
When it comes to tackling insomnia, many women prefer to avoid harsh pharmaceuticals and instead opt for over-the-counter supplements and natural remedies.
These interventions come with far fewer potential side effects and are generally considered a safer alternative. However, certain over-the-counter supplements can still carry risks, and in some cases, they can interact with other medications. So, always speak to your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Our bodies naturally produce the sleep hormone melatonin. But as we age, melatonin levels drop. This can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
But evidence suggests that melatonin supplementation at a daily dosage of 3mg and above can significantly improve sleep disturbances in menopausal women. On top of that, it can also have a positive impact on body mass index (BMI) and bone density.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that CBD, a non-psychoactive substance derived from cannabis, has a wide range of medicinal benefits. One of these benefits is as a natural sleep aid.
Our bodies contain something called an endocannabinoid system, which plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycle. Cannabinoids, compounds found in cannabis, bind to our endocannabinoid receptors and work to induce sleep.
Other Ways to Find Relief from Menopause-Related Insomnia
Along with the medical treatments and supplements above, several other interventions and lifestyle changes could help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer.
1. Cut out caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can keep you awake long past your bedtime. Alcohol is a depressant, but while it may make you feel drowsy, even just a glass or two of wine can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep.
So, experts recommend cutting out smoking and carefully limiting your coffee and alcohol consumption to maximize your sleep.
A National Health Statistics Report published by the CDC suggests that more than half of people who practice yoga notice their sleep improves.
Yoga can also ease many of the psychological symptoms of menopause. A whopping 85% of yoga practitioners say their stress levels are reduced. Plus, yoga has also been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety and depression disorders which often come hand in hand with menopause.
Aromatherapy has been used for millennia to help soothe physical and emotional ailments. So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that inhaling certain essential oils can have a positive impact on symptoms of menopause, including insomnia, hot flashes, and night sweats.
A study of 100 menopausal women showed that after twelve weeks of lavender inhalation, hot flashes had reduced by an impressive 50%. Lavender is also a powerful sleep aid in its own right. So, consider using an oil burner or dabbing some lavender essential oil on your pillow before you drift off each night.
Regular exercise balances circadian rhythms. This leads to a better night’s sleep every night. A regular sweat session can also boost your mood by reducing stress and easing symptoms of menopause-related depression and anxiety.
5. Change your bedtime routine
Creating a healthy bedtime routine can have a surprisingly dramatic effect on the quality and duration of your sleep.
Here are a few things to try:
- Remove blue light-emitting devices, for example, smartphones, laptops, and tablets, for at least one hour before bed. Blue light stimulates the production of cortisol, keeping you awake.
- Practice a soothing activity to help you wind down. For example, reading a book, inhaling essential oils, or meditating.
- Take a bath. Immersing yourself in a warm bath before you go to bed can help prepare your body for sleep and stimulate the production of melatonin.
- Keep the lights low. Bright lights mimic the light of the sun, which sends signals to your brain that it’s daytime. Low (ideally red or orange) spectrum light mimics the setting sun, triggering your brain to prepare for sleep by releasing melatonin.
Each person’s experience is different. Some women have bouts of insomnia for weeks or months at a time during perimenopause. Then, once their periods stop and they reach menopause, their hormones subside, and the issue goes away.
Others find the symptoms of insomnia last well into post-menopause. And some women never suffer from issues of insomnia at all.
If you’re in your 40s or 50s, you might automatically assume that your insomnia is a direct result of menopause.
And that may well be the case. But there are plenty of outside factors that can cause or contribute to insomnia, including:
Anxiety and depression
Excess screen time
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. A lack of sleep has a huge impact on every aspect of your health, physically and psychologically.
So, if your insomnia is keeping you up all night, you can expect other menopause symptoms, such as brain fog, mood swings, and hot flashes, to get worse, too.
That’s why it’s so important to deal with menopause-related insomnia as soon as possible. After all, good sleep is the cornerstone of good health.
If you’re struggling with menopause-related insomnia, it’s likely to have an impact on many other areas of your life. After all, when you’re exhausted through lack of sleep, your emotional and physical health can take a big hit.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of interventions that can help you tackle insomnia, from supplements and yoga to lifestyle changes and a new bedtime routine. And if those things haven’t helped, be sure to speak to your doctor. They can help you get to the bottom of the cause of your insomnia and suggest a treatment plan that can help.
- How Can Menopause Affect Sleep? | Sleep Foundation
- Sleep problems during the menopausal transition: prevalence, impact, and management challenges – PMC (nih.gov)
- Vasomotor symptoms of menopause: Causes, risk factors, and more (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Sleep Disorders and Menopause – PMC (nih.gov)
- Effects of progesterone on sleep: a possible pharmacological treatment for sleep-breathing disorders? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Antidepressants for Menopause: Benefits, Types, Side Effects, and More (healthline.com)
- Melatonin and the health of menopausal women: A systematic review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The Impact of Cannabidiol on Psychiatric and Medical Conditions – PMC (nih.gov)
- National Health Statistics Reports, Number 85, November 4, 2015 (cdc.gov)
- The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia (hindawi.com)
- What Is the Link Between Anxiety and Insomnia?