Menopause is a natural process every woman can expect to go through in her life. Unless it’s medically induced in a younger woman, for example through a hysterectomy, the average age for most women to experience menopause is late 40s to early 50s. The years leading up to menopause (called perimenopause) and the post-menopausal years immediately following menopause can involve changes as well.
Even though it’s natural, menopause can cause some disruption to a woman’s life through hormonal changes and fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone. One of those changes affects sleep, and getting good quality sleep is definitely important for health. According to board-certified OBGYN Donna Ivery, MD,
“Sleep is one of the foundational requirements for good health and well-being. Addressing sleep disturbances early can prevent other menopausal symptoms from disrupting your life.”
If you’re in menopause or close to it and having trouble getting a good night of rest, it’s worth considering what might specifically disturb your sleep during this time of life and the steps you can take to improve it. Here’s what you need to know.
How Menopause Affects and Interrupts Sleep
Menopause can disrupt sleep in a lot of ways, and how much of an effect it has depends on the individual woman. Here are a few of the major ways it can disrupt your sleep as you move through the menopausal transition.
Insomnia: Having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep are common complaints during menopause. Some women also wake up a lot earlier than they used to, and if they aren’t going to bed earlier, that can mean a short night where they don’t get enough rest. Not every woman gets insomnia when she’s going through menopause, but it can definitely be a concern for some women.
Sleep apnea: Some women develop sleep apnea because of their menopausal transition. Like insomnia, this doesn’t happen to every woman. But if you’re not sleeping well in menopause, ask your doctor about a sleep study to make sure apnea isn’t the culprit. Untreated sleep apnea can put your health at risk, but there are solutions that can help reduce the problems sleep apnea may cause.
Hot flashes: Hot flashes are a very common complaint for women in menopause. These flashes can be mild or strong and can happen multiple times per day. When they occur at night, they can leave you feeling sweaty and then chilled afterward. That often disrupts sleep patterns, whether you wake up fully during a hot flash or not.
Daytime fatigue: Not getting good sleep at night can mean not feeling awake during the day. Feeling fatigued, sleepy, or without energy, especially in the afternoon, is another common complaint for women going through menopause. With better sleep at night, this problem often lessens or goes away entirely.
Anxiety and depression: Some women struggle with new or heightened anxiety and depression during menopause, and that can keep them awake at night. It’s hard to sleep when you’re anxious or depressed, but there are treatments that can help make things better.
All of those issues, and other sleep-related problems, can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are adjustments that can give you better sleep once again.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep During Menopause
Getting a good night’s sleep during menopause may be a little more difficult, but it’s certainly possible. With the right changes and maybe some medical intervention, you can sleep well again. Here are a few of the best ways to get better sleep during menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Many women choose HRT on the advice of their doctors. This therapy is designed to increase the hormones the body is no longer producing, which resolves many menopause symptoms and can definitely contribute to better sleep. But it’s important to know that there are some risks with HRT, especially in women with a family history of certain kinds of breast cancer. Talking to your doctor is important.
Wear loose clothing: Wearing loose clothing in natural fabrics and keeping the room cool can help with better sleep. Most people sleep better in a cooler room overall, and if hot flashes are a problem, lowering the temperature of your bedroom can be more beneficial than trying to sleep when you’re too warm.
Keep your bed comfortable and cool. Purchasing a set of cooling sheets or blankets can help keep your sleep environment at an optimal temperature.
Stick to a schedule: Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps some women who are dealing with menopause get better sleep. A good schedule helps train your body to wake and sleep at certain times. Coupled with other behaviors to promote good sleep, a schedule can be very beneficial.
Avoid spicy foods and caffeine: Foods with a lot of spice in them or anything that contains caffeine can easily keep you awake during the best of times. But when menopause is making it more difficult to sleep overall, spicy foods and caffeine can contribute to difficulty in getting to sleep and staying asleep so you can feel well rested during the day.
Don’t nap during the day: It’s so tempting to take a nap during the day when you’re tired or not getting good sleep at night. But avoid the temptation, as napping can just make it more difficult for your body to fall asleep at night or stay asleep for a longer time.
Taking the right steps to get enough sleep can help you feel better in menopause and beyond. With good sleep, you have more energy for the things in life that matter to you, which can also boost your mood and give you more focus. Menopause doesn’t need to be a tough time in life, and you can move through the process more easily by being proactive and taking good care of your body — including getting the right amount of sleep.
Don’t settle for poor sleep just because of a natural process your body is going through. Instead, address the sleep issues menopause may cause in your life so you can feel good, well rested, and energetic once again. From home remedies and over-the-counter options to your doctor’s recommendations for other treatments or medications, there are plenty of choices for women dealing with menopause and sleep issues. Finding the one that works for you can give you back the energy you may have lost from a lack of sleep and get you back into living life again.