We all know that sleep has a major impact on our mood, but it also allows our cells to renew. The body is hard at work when we are sleeping, repairing and rejuvenating ourselves, as well as reducing our stress levels.
We cannot survive without sleep. Never feel lazy for sleeping 8-10 hours—your body could become even more impressive for doing so!
Sleep can even help us lose weight. Evidence shows that those who experience weight gain issues are normally poor sleepers.
Also, common sense tells us that the longer we are awake, the more energy we need. We also face the temptation to eat, bringing about the tendency to consume more calories than we need to and letting the extra weight creep in.
Sleep is also good for turning back the clock on our appearance. Tiredness often makes us look older than we are because the body is trying to conserve its energy, and the skin cells are deprived of the time to renew as they normally would during sleep.
Sleep is also great for libido! Your sex drive might be diminished during menopause, but how much less is it when you are tired?
Sleep has an impact on our happiness, too. Happy people are typically full of energy and always ready to get up and go.
All these reasons are why you should take your sleep seriously and give your brain everything it needs to shut down for eight hours or more each night.
How Does Menopause Affect Sleep?
Estrogen reacts with other hormones that affect sleep, such as melatonin.
Melatonin levels decline with age, affecting sleep patterns as we get older. However, declining levels of progesterone and estrogen interfere with the secretion levels of melatonin, so they can exacerbate changes to our usual sleep cycles.
Progesterone has a naturally restful effect on the brain's pathways, so having less progesterone could make our brains slightly more active at times when we are accustomed to resting.
Progesterone also plays a part in stimulating breathing and can affect how much our muscles relax. This may cause our breathing to become slower and our throats to become 'baggy,' contributing to sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breath rate and flow. However, sleep apnea also has other known contributing factors, like obesity or heart defects.
Other Menopausal Symptoms
If we suffer from vasomotor symptoms—like feeling hot or cold and possibly sweating excessively—we might easily be roused from sleep.
Urinary issues, such as feeling the urge to pee, may force us to wake and prevent them from getting restful sleep.
Joint or muscle pain may cause such discomfort, inhibiting sleep too.
Anxiety or low mood is known to cause non-restorative sleep by keeping us from falling into the deeper parts of the sleep cycle that enable us to relax. Remaining in the more light and alert phases of sleep means we are more likely to wake and not get enough sleep.
What Can You Do?
Ensure Good Sleep Hygiene
Keep your bedroom for sleep and sex only, so ban screens and other devices that may be overstimulating.
Keep your bedroom dark and cool to enhance restful sleep.
Enjoy a relaxing bedtime routine.
Limit screen time before going to bed.
Wear natural fibers whenever possible to help regulate your body temperature.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Cut caffeine altogether or limit your caffeine intake by having your last caffeinated drink before lunch.
Eat your last meal early in the evening, as digestion will keep the body awake. A light carbohydrate or protein snack before bed could help you stay asleep by regulating blood sugar and preventing wakefulness due to hunger. It may also be useful to have a snack near the bed for night-time waking. But keep the snack light if you do not want your digestive system working too hard when you're trying to rest! Examples of light snacks include milk, oatcakes, banana, and peanut butter.
If you are overweight, losing weight can help regulate your body’s functions, including sleep, as there is less mass for the body to control.
Exercise during the day. Keep in mind that exercise should be done at least two hours before sleep, so your body has time to wind down.
Engage in Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness activities have far-reaching positive results in reducing stress and increasing relaxation.
Here's one relaxation technique that you can do:
Find a comfortable chair to sit in—no need to lie down to relax fully.
Turn all your attention to your feet, the feet inside the shoes, and the shoes connecting with the ground.
Use your breathing to allow yourself to relax your feet, focusing on doing long, deep breaths, in and out.
Take that relaxation up from your feet up to your legs, up to the knee, then into the thighs and bottom so that you start to feel heavier in the chair.
With longer, deeper breaths, take the relaxation up into the rest of your body, all the way to your scalp, and then head back down again to the tips of your toes.
If you prefer in-bed relaxation, you can do the same thing lying in bed. Start by focusing on the feet first, then work the relaxation into each muscle and area throughout your body, tensing and relaxing as you go.
It is vital to control your breathing and the commands you give to your mind to help you relax with each deep breath.
Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a well-recognized technique to help the mind reframe what is happening.
By helping you feel calmer and more in control, your body is more likely to resume a normal sleep pattern.
Take SSRI/SNRI Medications
SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, while SNRI stands for serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
SSRIs and SNRIs are two classes of medications that may be used for the treatment of depression. They have been shown to help reduce the experience of hot flashes and night sweats among menopausal women.
They work with estrogen to regulate the brain-modulating neuroregulatory pathways. In simple terms, they tell the brain how to best control body temperatures, helping women in menopause enjoy a more comfortable sleep.
However, we recommend trying a more natural approach first and seek medical advice.
Do Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT treats a variety of systemic symptoms of menopause. For some women, it reduces the symptoms that inhibit decent sleep.
A Quick Sleeping Trick
If you are lying awake, fretting about being unable to get to sleep or go back to sleep, get out of bed and leave your bedroom.
Do something calming in another part of the house without any technological stimulation or caffeine for about 20 minutes. Then, go back to bed.
Keep doing this until you fall asleep. You may be tired the next day, but this will help retrain your body into a different sleep pattern and change your circadian rhythm—the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.