While there are many well-known symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, hair growth, and weight gain), insomnia is not always mentioned. But it turns out that insomnia associated with menopause is quite common.
In fact, insomnia risks increase as menopause enters, with 61% of postmenopausal women showing symptoms, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
If you’re having trouble closing your eyes, here’s everything you need to know about the condition, plus doctor-approved advice that can help.
Symptoms of insomnia
Insomnia is usually characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, resulting in a lack of sleep that causes distress or difficulty in daily activities, says Dr. Rachel Marie E. Salas, MD and professor of neurology and nursing at Johns Hopkins. âIf this happens at least three nights a week and lasts for at least a month, you could have what sleep experts call persistent insomnia disorder. “
Related: What Is Causing Your Insomnia?
When symptoms are left untreated, it can become an ongoing negative cycle that leads to further health issues.
“Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to daytime disturbances such as fatigue, malaise, memory and concentration problems, mood disturbances, irritability and difficulty coping with daily stressors” Jennie Mastroianni, DNP, NCMP, a nurse practitioner at Tufts Medical Center, explains. “These symptoms can actually cause more stress and make insomnia worse.”
Is there a link between menopause and insomnia?
Yes, according to experts.
âMenopause can take its toll on women’s sleep. Sleep problems are common during and during perimenopause through postmenopause, âsays Dr. Salas. âThe ovaries gradually decrease the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause. These hormonal changes contribute to sleep problems that often persist after menopause. “
If you suffer from hot flashes and night sweats, it can cause trouble sleeping and sleep deprivation.
âWomen who are transitioning into menopause may be more likely to report decreased quality of sleep, especially if they have vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats). The vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause can cause sleep disturbances leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and an overall reduction in quality of life, âsays Dr Mastroianni.
How to promote better sleep
If you have trouble sleeping, whether it’s hormone related or not, here are some steps you can take.
Good sleep hygiene
In other words, adopt habits that increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
âGood sleep hygiene includes waking up at the same time each morning, increasing daytime exposure to bright light, exercising regularly and establishing a comfortable sleep environment,â says Mastroianni. âAvoiding alcohol, stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) and daytime naps are also suggested. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be effective in promoting better sleep.
Related: The Perfect Sleep Schedule: Follow This Routine To Get The Best Sleep Ever
Create a sleep schedule and stick to it
It’s important to make sure your sleep and wake cycle is consistent during the week and on weekends, says Dr. Salas. âWhile the majority of people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, it is best to focus on quality (consistent cycle), rather than amount (quantity), sleep.
Prepare your brain for sleep
Despite our best efforts, it is impossible for most of us to fall asleep on command. That’s why it’s important to help your brain go into sleep mode. Dr. Salas recommends adopting the following habits:
- Create a ritual before bedtime. For example, taking a shower and putting on pajamas over and over can send your brain the message that it’s time to sleep.
- Avoid overly stimulating foods, drinks, and activities. These include caffeinated drinks (as mentioned above), exercise, and a heavy meal too close to bedtime.
- Allow time to calm your mind. In other words, don’t argue with your partner right before bed. Avoid doing anything that stresses you out.
- Sign out of your devices. Turn off your electronics at least half an hour before bed. Blue light from your phone is scientifically proven to prevent you from sleeping.
Related: Coping With Eye Fatigue From Too Much Screen Time? We have found the 8 best pairs of anti-blue light glasses
Is insomnia treated differently when it is linked to menopause?
Insomnia related to vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause can be treated with prescription hormonal and non-hormonal treatments.
âHormone therapy is the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms and can be offered to women who have no medical contraindication to estrogen or progesterone,â says Dr. Salas. âTreatment must be individualized using the best clinical evidence to maximize benefits and minimize potential risks. “
Non-hormonal therapies can be used off-label to treat women who are not candidates for hormone therapy.
âThese therapies include certain antidepressant drugs such as paroxetine, venlafaxine and escitalopram,â says Dr. Salas. âGabapentin, a drug used to treat epilepsy, migraines and nerve pain, is also effective in treating vasomotor symptoms. Since gabapentin can cause drowsiness, it is taken at bedtime and may be a good treatment option for women with bothersome night sweats.
Then read 50 quotes about menopause that will resonate with every woman.