Does menopause have you staring at your bedroom ceiling instead of getting a good night’s sleep? The National Sleep Foundation reports nearly half of women in midlife say they have trouble sleeping. There are ways to cope, however, whether you make lifestyle changes or opt for medication.
According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, women going through menopause—and even after menopause—experience more frequent insomnia and use prescription sleep aids more than twice as often as premenopausal women.
There have been no formal studies that specifically link menopause as a cause of sleep problems, but women say one of its common symptoms—hot flashes—plays havoc with their sleep.
And even women who don’t experience hot flashes may have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep because of other issues that may surface in menopause, such as sleep apnea, depression, snoring, restless leg syndrome, and midlife stresses such as caring for aging parents.
5 Tips to Help You Sleep
- Foods. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, as well as spicy foods, which may cause sweating, exacerbate night sweats, and keep you awake. Likewise, you may think that alcohol will help you relax and fall asleep, but it can disturb your sleep later on.
- Exercise. A Northwestern University study showed that women in menopause who engaged in regular aerobic exercise improved the quality of their sleep, mood, and vitality. It’s best to avoid exercise in the three hours before you go to sleep.
- Bedroom climate. A cool, well-ventilated bedroom and loose clothing made of natural fibers like cotton that wick moisture away from your skin will go a long way to lessen the impact of hot flashes. Cotton sheets are also a good idea. Wearing socks to bed will help control your core body temperature.
- Bedtime routine. Take a cool bath or shower before you go to bed if you have night sweats, a warm bath or shower if you don’t. Stick to a bedtime schedule—same time every night, and don’t eat, read, or watch television in bed. Be sure you go to the bathroom before bed.
- Relax. Worrying about not sleeping can actually make getting to sleep even worse. Using relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, or listening to soothing sounds may help lull you to sleep.
When Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough
If you’ve tried your best to make changes to your lifestyle and you’re still troubled by insomnia, it’s time to ask your doctor for help.
- A physical exam. Your doctor will want to rule out medical causes other than menopause for your sleep problems. He or she will also check any medications you may be taking that could disturb your sleep.
- Sleep aids. Some women find that sleep medication helps them. Discuss with your doctor if sleep aids are right for you.
- Hormone therapy. Hormone therapy (HRT) may be offered to select women with severe symptoms, and can relieve hot flashes caused by changes in the hormones produced by the ovaries. Because studies have linked long-term HRT use to adverse side effects like increased risks of cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke, HRT is usually only prescribed for severe symptoms, and at the lowest dose for the shortest period of time. Consultation with your doctor is recommended. Other drug possibilities include some antidepressants and a new non-hormonal drug.
The bottom line is you don’t have to suffer without getting enough rest. You need six to eight hours of quality sleep each night to maintain good health. Poor sleep quality affects many areas of your life—your daytime alertness, mental sharpness, irritability, mood swings, and interest in sex. And it makes you more susceptible to chronic diseases and weight gain.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor to develop a sleep strategy. You can stop the tossing and turning.