Why It Happens And What To Do
Many women are struggling through the hormonal changes associated with peri-menopause (the time leading up to menopause) and menopause. One of women’s biggest complaints is the change in their sleep patterns.
They often find themselves waking up several times a night and can’t get back to sleep or they are waking up due to night sweats. Does this sound familiar?
“I have no trouble falling asleep, but then wake up drenched in sweat. I have to throw off the covers and change my nightgown. Then I’m cold and have to cover back up. No wait, I’m hot and grab the fan”. This goes on all night, every night. This hormonal roller coaster ride that is disrupting your sleep is leading to further hormonal imbalances.
The end result, you are fat, tired, depressed, and feel like you are going crazy.
It probably comes as no surprise, many studies have shown a link between menopause and insomnia. It seems that at this time in a woman’s life, her sleep patterns often become disrupted. Women who may never have had trouble falling asleep before, find that in middle age they are lying awake more and more often. Or they wake during the night and have trouble sleeping again.
So why do menopause and insomnia often go together, and what can you do to improve your sleep?
Causes Of Insomnia In Menopausal Women
Often the hormonal fluctuations of menopause can cause insomnia directly. As we age, our body clocks change, and sleep disorders can be the result. It is well-known that the hormonal changes of adolescence causes changes in the sleep patterns (just look at the way a kid who use to bounce up at dawn is suddenly sleeping until noon) and for some women, a similar thing may happen at the menopause.
Not that women are sleeping until noon, but that hormonal changes are affecting sleep quality and duration. This is obviously a time of great hormonal shifts.
During the time of peri-menopause and menopause there is the common complaint of night sweats, caused by hot flashes during the night. These can wake a woman several times a night, and sometimes it is not easy to fall asleep again.
Hormones that contribute to night sweats are a lowering of estrogens and either a rise or fall of cortisol.
Cortisol should naturally be lower at night and melatonin higher. This allows the body time to repair and relax.
Stress And Anxiety
When chronic day to day stress catches up to you this normal rhythm is out of balance. Sleep quality is further impacted by a fall in your progesterone. Progesterone helps you to relax, have a sense of well-being and help you to fall asleep.
This time of life is a stressful time for many women. The physical changes of the menopause are impossible to ignore. Some of them cause physical discomfort and others cause anxiety.
It is a time when you come face to face with the emotional and physical realities of your approaching old age and death, even if you have successfully managed to avoid thinking about these things before.
And stress is a big cause of insomnia. So sometimes, menopause and insomnia go hand in hand even if the menopause is not the direct cause.
What To Do About Menopause And Insomnia
If your problem is night sweats, then you may find it helpful to take either natural hormone therapy (bio-identical hormones), natural herbal remedies, or homeopathy for the problems associated with the menopause. You will need to discuss this with a qualified medical practitioner. This should not be a one size fits all approach.
Each woman’s needs are different and what works for one may not work for another. Your particular health risks also need to be considered.
Of course, there are also sleep medications that you may be able to take, either prescribed by your health practitioner or herbal remedies. But, what if you do not want to take medication?
Tips To Help You Fall Asleep
In that case you can apply any of the tips listed here for helping you achieve natural sleep without aids.
- Avoid stimulants, especially in the evening. Stimulants include emotional situations (arguments etc.), watching TV, sitting in front of a computer screen, as well as physical stimulants like caffeine.
- Avoid eating high-carb foods or drinking alcohol as these are sure fire (no pun intended) triggers for hot flashes.
- Make sure that your bedroom is ventilated, quiet and not too warm. If your spouse snores, you may need to deal with that in some way.
- Relaxation techniques can be very useful for helping you to fall asleep, both at the beginning of the night and after waking. Try listening to relaxing music, meditation, or a warm bath.
- Try to have a consistent bedtime. Your adrenal glands, that produce cortisol, do their repair and rebuilding from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. You need to be in bed sleeping at this time for this to happen.
- Turn the lights down about an hour before bed as this will help stimulate melatonin naturally. This will help you further relax and make you drowsy so you can fall asleep.
Insomnia can have many causes and it may be that your sleeplessness is not directly related to menopause, even if it happens at the same time. It is worth discussing it with your health practitioner to see what treatments he or she recommends for your difficulties with the menopause and insomnia.
Natural Remedies For Treating Insomnia
Having said that, let’s look at some natural remedies that may help. Keep in mind your particular health needs and risks and always consult with your practitioner as the information here is for educational purposes only and is not a replacement for appropriate medical advice.
Natural sleeping remedies can be of great benefit to anybody who has trouble getting to sleep at night, but does not want to take regular sleeping pills. Hormone replacement, as mentioned is one option, but there are other options that might help you as well.
Valerian is a herb traditionally used as a remedy for insomnia. It is not known exactly how it works, but it is thought to have a similar effect to some prescription sleep medications. It is not addictive, but it is better not to take it for more than 3 months at a time.
You can take it either as tea or in capsule form. Tea is more traditional, but it is harder to get an accurate dose that way and many people do not like the taste, so capsules are more popular.
Although some people find valerian helpful immediately, others have to take it every night for a couple of weeks before it begins to have an effect.
This is not always convenient because it is important not to take valerian if you have been drinking alcohol, if you are pregnant or nursing, before or after surgery, or if you have liver disease.
A word of caution: Some people experience mild side effects including headaches, indigestion and dizziness. If you suffer from these then you probably will not want to take valerian on a regular basis, but there are still some other natural sleeping remedies that may suit you.
Passion Flower Tea
Passion Flower is a medicinal herb that acts as a mild sedative, helps calm the nerves that can allow you to relax and fall asleep.
Lavender Essential Oil
It can aid relaxation, anxiety and ultimately help with sleep. This can either be put in a diffuser at your bedside or put a few drops on the bottom of your feet.
As with most other supplements, pregnant and nursing women and anybody with health issues should consult with their health care provider before taking natural sleeping remedies.
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. When the end of the day comes and darkness falls, our body converts serotonin into melatonin to help us fall asleep. Melatonin supplements are, therefore, often used by people seeking natural sleeping remedies, especially in cases where the body clock has been thrown out by something like shift work, jet lag or hormonal changes.
A word of caution: Some studies have concluded that melatonin should not be taken by people with schizophrenia, depression or autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and many more). In these cases you might want to consider other natural sleeping remedies. For best results take 30-60 minutes before bed.
5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5HTP is a natural amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin, one of the body’s ‘happy chemicals’ that helps us to relax, among other things. It is one of the most often mentioned natural sleeping remedies.
Studies have shown that 5HTP can be effective as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant and sleep aid. It may also help reduce anxiety.
If you take 5HTP for insomnia, the best time to take it is in the evening, about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. You can take it on an empty stomach.
A word of caution: No serious side effects have been established so far, but you should consult with your health practitioner before taking 5HTP, especially if you are taking other medications. 5HTP should not be combined with antidepressant drugs that are involved in serotonin production.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Studies indicate that it promotes positive mood, supports relaxation and moderates occasional stress.
A recent study indicates that GABA also enhances alpha wave production in the brain to promote relaxation and moderate occasional stress. In the same study, it supported healthy IgA levels, suggesting that it may support immune health during occasional stress.
GABA can help calm racing thoughts and anxiety you might have at night.
Note: While these are some available options, it is best to get a go-ahead from your medical practitioner before starting.
Hope this help you to a better night’s sleep and helps you maintain your sanity.