This article was written by guest contributor Julia Walker RN, BSN, a perimenopause expert, women's health nurse, and writer from Perry.
Perry is a social network that connects like-minded warriors in the same stage of life. This community offers a safe space for women to unite and tap into knowledge and resources from menopause experts.
Time and time again, we hear women struggling with sleep issues during perimenopause and menopause. Alongside all of the other frustrating perimenopause symptoms, sleep disturbance is one of the most talked-about issues in the Perry community.
Sleep is vital for our overall health and wellbeing. However, despite its necessity, sleep can evade us even when we need it most. Women in menopause are particularly prone to sleep issues. Changing hormones are responsible for several symptoms that can interfere with rest, including anxiety, night sweats, and joint pain. However, insomnia can also develop during this transitional stage, leaving you exhausted.
Let’s take a look at why menopause affects the sleep cycle and what you can do to get a better night’s rest.
First Things First: Why Do Our Bodies Require Sleep?
We need several hours of consecutive sleep for optimal health. Sleep is like hitting the restart button each day. During sleep, our bodies:
- Consolidate our memories and experiences
- Restore and rejuvenate
- Repair tissues
- Grow muscle, and
- Synthesize hormones
When we do not get enough consecutive hours of sleep, our bodies cannot complete all of the above tasks that keep us healthy and well.
Surprisingly, the body regulates sleep similarly to how it regulates other vital functions like breathing, eating, and drinking. Although scientists are still exploring more in-depth theories about why we sleep, there is certainly a consensus that sleep helps prevent disease and boosts our vitality.
Menopause and Sleep Issues
Unfortunately, the circadian rhythm (our internal clock) is quite sensitive to hormonal shifts within our bodies. In menopause, our ovarian function declines to where the ovaries no longer release eggs and cease to produce estrogen. Changes in estrogen levels can affect all of your organ systems, including your brain and its neurohormones.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone. In the journal Sleep Science, a comprehensive study revealed that melatonin levels decrease during perimenopause, which is the time before a woman reaches menopause. However, parallel findings show that men of the same age also experience a decrease in melatonin levels. Whether age, hormones, or a combination of the two causes insomnia is yet to be confirmed.
What You Can Do To Manage Sleep Problems in Menopause
While it may seem out of your control, there are many tactics you can try to get a decent night’s rest in menopause.
Establish a bedtime
If you have children, you probably created a bedtime routine that consisted of winding down, perhaps a warm bath, a story or two, then bedtime. Well, establishing a routine for yourself can also be highly effective in helping you relax. Similarly, going to bed at the same time each night can help train your body and mind to be ready for rest.
Cut back on screen time
We are beginning to learn more about how the digital age affects our brains. And while there are numerous benefits to having a continuous feed of information at our fingertips, constant screen time can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm. Try putting your phone out of sight for two hours before sleep to help decrease stimulation.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine
So often, people rely on caffeine to give them energy and use alcohol to wind them down. Yet, both of these substances can have significant impacts on our sleep cycle. Try to cut back on caffeine and alcohol if you use them frequently, especially in the hours before bedtime.
Physical activity has a way of increasing our energy while simultaneously helping us rest better at night. Try to fit exercise into your daily schedule to regulate your sleep cycle.
Prepare your sleep environment
If hot flashes and temperature instability keep you up at night, try to create an ideal sleeping climate. For example, you may want to turn up the fan or lower the thermostat or wearing sweat-wicking pajamas (or even none) to keep you cool and comfortable.
Natural Treatment Options
Taking a melatonin supplement can help boost melatonin levels in your body and improve sleep, especially if taken at the right time of day. Melatonin is a popular natural sleep aid for shift workers and people with jet lag.
As one of the most well-loved minerals on the periodic table, taking a magnesium supplement can have profound effects on your body, including stabilizing your mood, improving digestion, and helping you sleep better. Taking a magnesium supplement can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. Not all supplements have to be taken in pill form. For a delicious and calming nighttime ritual, add Binto’s Glow Down magnesium drink mix to a cool glass of water as you ready yourself for bed.
No matter how hard you may try, some women in menopause need sleep medication to help them get the rest they need. If you feel that natural treatment options and lifestyle changes have not improved your sleep, it is important to connect with a health provider.
Your provider may recommend some over-the-counter medication options for short-term help. If these medications are not helpful, your doctor may also consider prescription sleep aids to help you get the rest you need to thrive.
The benefits of sleep are far too great, and getting too little sleep for too long can have consequences for both your physical and mental health. If you are in the menopause transition and are struggling to sleep, connect with one of Binto’s health providers via chat or schedule a telehealth visit.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.
About Julia Walker
Perry Babe Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.