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Sleep Disruption in Menopause

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

One of the most common complaints I hear from peri- and menopausal women is that they don't sleep well anymore. The inability to sleep impacts every part of your life - women experience more irritability, have more brain fog, don't have the energy to exercise - and women can't figure out how to break the negative cycle. As women's hormones decline into menopause, sleep disturbances - trouble falling asleep, frequent awakening, and/or early morning awakening - increase. Common symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats only make the matter worse.

In a natural sleep cycle, your body temperature drops, facilitated by melatonin. Most women know that as they transition from reproductive age into menopause their estrogen (specifically estradiol) levels drop to near zero in full menopause. Unfortunately, melatonin levels decrease with decreasing estrogen and progesterone. Without the ability to naturally drop their body temperature, it is difficult for women to get the deep sleep that they need to feel rested and restored. Some women also wake up in the middle of the night, in part, because they don't ingest enough calories during the day.

I recommend that older women try a few of these tips to improve sleep, check their results, and then move down the list if symptoms persist.

  1. Have good sleep hygiene. Keep the bedroom below 68 degrees. Get comfortable bedding and pillows. Limit daytime napping. Consider a dehumidifier if you live in a humid area. Add essential oils to the air (research shows lavender has a positive effect.) Avoid screens before bedtime. Make sure the room is as dark and quiet as possible - use blackout curtains, sleep masks, ear plugs, etc.

  2. Wake up and go to bed as close to the same time each day as possible.

  3. Spend some time in the sunlight every day.

  4. Stop caffeine intake by noon. Limit alcohol intake, especially before bed. Caffeine and alcohol are known sleep disrupters.

  5. Take a hot bath/shower before bed. (Yes, it seems counterintuitive but your body temperature quickly expels the heat and your core temperature drops once you get out.) Settle your nervous system by doing some deep breathing when you get into bed - inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second, exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

  6. Drink 8 oz. of ice-cold tart cherry juice 30 minutes before bedtime. The juice stimulates natural production of melatonin. Additionally, the coldness lowers your body temperature. (If you use tablets, take them with ice-cold water.)

  7. Eat a small snack before bed. Try a casein protein shake - casein digests slowly - 40g is a good place to start. Other good options include Greek yogurt with berries or apple slices with nut butter. After dinner, avoid foods with high glycemic index - pastries and breads, for example - because studies show they increase insomnia.

  8. If your sleep disturbances persist, talk to your doctor about whether supplements, adaptogens, and/or menopause hormone therapy (MHT) might help. Future blog posts here will address some of these options.

Disclaimer - Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of years of practical experience and formal training by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication, or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other health care professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your healthcare provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website and the use of any products or services mentioned on this website by you do not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any of the physicians affiliated with this website. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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