Sleep problems and menopause

Is the menopause keeping you awake at night?

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Eileen Durward
Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
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An introduction to sleeping problems

Menopausal women often experience some kind of sleep problem. This can range from not getting to sleep or not staying asleep to sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea.

Adults on average should sleep for seven to nine hours every night. Without this amount of sleep, many people find it difficult to concentrate, have increased anxiety or a range of other problems.

For menopausal women, night sweats are a common cause of not being able to sleep. Once these night sweats cease, many women find that their sleep problems ease.

Why does menopause cause sleep problems?

The menopause sees the fall of two main hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones affect sleep patterns in two different ways.

Oestrogen is important for managing the level of magnesium in the body. This is a chemical which allows your muscles to relax. A lowered level of magnesium makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Falling levels of oestrogen are also the primary factor in causing night sweats, which can disrupt the sleep cycle. It is also thought that this can cause breathing irregularities during sleep resulting in a sleep problem similar to sleep apnoea.

Progesterone is important for making you fall asleep and stay asleep. With lowered levels of progesterone you will find it more difficult to slip into deep sleep, so even if you do not wake during the night, the sleep is not as restful as it should be.

What home remedies are there for sleep problems?

Home remedies should be tried before using a sleep aid, as often this will provide the solution you are seeking. It is thought that making specific changes to your lifestyle has the most effective and lasting results.

Simple things such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every morning will help your body get into a sleep routine. It will mean that your body is ready to sleep when you bed down, and equally ready for the day ahead in the morning.

Diet can also aid sleep. Fatty or sugary foods will make it extremely difficult for you to fall asleep. What's more, these foods, along with caffeine, will leave you more prone to night sweats. It is worth cutting out these foods if it means reduced night sweats and better sleep.

It is important to have enough calcium and magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is important for helping you sleep. It is often lacking in the diet, as it is only found in healthy wholefoods and is used up in stressful circumstances. A magnesium supplement may reduce the severity of your sleep problem.

There is also a range of relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and hypnotherapy which will make it easier for you to switch off at night and not be distracted by a multitude of thoughts flooding into your mind just as you switch off the lights.

Are there herbal remedies to help me?

Herbal remedies can be an effective sleep aid. They are not commonly associated with the side-effects which people may experience with many conventional medicines. These herbal remedies include:

  • Valerian herb – this is perhaps the most popular herb used to aid sleep. It has a tranquilising effect as it decreases activity in the nervous system. It can be found in tinctures such as Dormeasan® Valerian & Hops
  • Night Essence – this contains a mixture of flower essences and is designed to help you sleep at night
  • Herbal teas such as chamomile, jasmine or lavender which help relax the body and mind to induce sleep
  • There are also herbal remedies to help with night sweats if these are at the root of your sleep problem. The most prominent among these is sage, which re-balances the sweat-regulating mechanism in your brain.

What about conventional medicine?

With sleep problems being such a common complaint, a range of conventional medicines has been developed to help with this. However, with the menopause being the root of the problem, solving the night sweats or hormone imbalance will provide greater relief.

It is advisory to speak to your doctor about taking conventional sleep medicines as many of these have side-effects and can only be used short-term. Your doctor will be able to find a solution most suited to your needs.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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