Sleep Struggles and Menopause: Understanding the Connection and Strategies to Support Better Sleep

Sleep Struggles and Menopause: Understanding the Connection and Strategies to Support Better Sleep

Disturbed sleep is one of the most common and disruptive challenges during the menopause which can have a knock-on effect on other areas of life, health and wellbeing. From difficulty getting to sleep, recurrent waking, not being able to get back to sleep, needing to go to the toilet, hot flushes, night sweats, restless leg syndrome and anxiety.

Other factors impacting sleep that the generation going through the menopause now will be exposed to that weren’t there in previous generations include blue light exposure from technology and devices, social stress, care roles and challenging jobs

Most people recognise that good quality sleep is essential for overall wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep can affect energy, focus, concentration, mood and motivation to name just a few things. Poor sleep, less than six hours a night has also been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Understanding the Impact of Hormones

Oestrogen plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. As oestrogen levels decline during the menopause, this delicate balance is disrupted, leading to difficulties falling asleep and achieving restorative sleep. In addition, progesterone levels may also decrease, further contributing to sleep disruptions.

Common Sleep Problems During Menopause

Hot Flushes and Night Sweats: Sudden feelings of intense heat, often accompanied by sweating can occur during the night, disrupting sleep and leading to frequent awakenings.

Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is common during menopause for many women. Racing thoughts, anxiety and hormonal imbalances can all contribute to insomnia.

Restless Leg Syndrome: Characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them, can worsen during menopause and disrupt sleep.

Strategies for Managing Sleep Problems During Menopause

Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate the body’s internal clock and promote better sleep quality.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed such as reading, soothing scents or soothing sounds, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness.

Keep the Bedroom Cool, Dark and Free from Clutter: Minimise disruptions to sleep by creating a comfortable sleep environment that is conducive to rest.

Stay Active: Regular exercise can improve sleep quality and alleviate symptoms associated with the menopause.

Avoid Caffeine from Mid-Afternoon: Everyone responds to caffeine differently and some are more sensitive to it’s effects than others but on average the stimulant effects last 6-8 hours.

Try to Avoid Eating Large Meals Too Close to Bedtime: The metabolic activity of the gut trying to digest food can impact the onset of sleep.

Limit Alcohol: This can lead to poor quality sleep and contribute to the need to go to the toilet during the night.

Limit Fluid Intake Before Bed: Try not to drink fluids in the few hours before bed to avoid having to go to the toilet overnight. To still maintain hydration levels try drinking more during the day, maybe even starting with a glass of water when waking.

Avoid Devices Before Bed: Avoid the use of electronic devices for at least and hour before bed and try and keep them out of the bedroom.

Managing Night Sweats: Avoid hot baths, hot showers or hot drinks before bed. Wear light, breathable cotton clothing and use light cotton bed sheets. Keep the bedroom on the cool side, turning radiators off and opening windows if needed. Have a spare set of nightclothes and sheets nearby in case they need to be changed during the night.

Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): For some women this may be an option to alleviate menopausal symptoms including sleep disturbances. However, it is essential to discuss the risks and benefits in relation to your unique history and health with a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Seek Professional Help if Needed: If sleep problems persist despite lifestyle modifications it is important to consult a healthcare professional. They can help identify any underlying issues and recommend appropriate options.

Conclusion

Sleep disturbances during menopause are not uncommon, but they can have a significant impact on overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. By understanding the connection between menopause and sleep problems and implementing strategies to promote better sleep, women can navigate this transition with greater ease and comfort. Remember, prioritising self-care and seeking support when needed are crucial steps in managing sleep disturbances during menopause.

 

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