The hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause can lead to a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are hot flashes and weight gain. The biological transition that happens during menopausal years, however, can challenge a woman’s ability to sleep soundly through the night. In order to help restore a healthy sleep cycle, a woman has to understand how menopause affects her sleep.
The Relationship Between Menopause And Sleep
During the menopausal years, the production of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone begin to decline. These hormones can affect mood, energy levels, cognitive and emotional abilities, sex drive, sleep, and the regulation of reproductive function or menstrual cycle. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these hormones.
Playing the most significant role in a woman’s ability to regulate menstruation and reproductive function, estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. In addition to encouraging cardiovascular health, weight management, and stronger bones, estrogen also promotes healthy sleep by assisting the body with serotonin regulation. Higher estrogen levels have been associated with better sleep, clearer skin, and mental sharpness. As estrogen levels fluctuate during menopause, a woman’s sleep can suffer.
Progesterone helps to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy with each monthly cycle, in addition to preparing for pregnancy during labor and breastfeeding. It also promotes the growth of new bone tissue. The decline of progesterone production is commonly attributed to a menopausal woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis. Bone health aside, progesterone has been referred to as a feel good hormone, helping to promote better sleep and relaxation. Low progesterone levels can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.
Women naturally produce lower levels of testosterone than men do, and testosterone plays an integral role in a woman’s sex drive. Testosterone helps a woman’s body produce estrogen, energy levels, and muscle and bone mass. As testosterone levels decline with age, it makes it more difficult to encourage estrogen production.
Now that we’ve covered how these hormones affect sleep, what can you do to help you sleep through the night? We have a few tips that may be beneficial for menopausal women with sleep troubles. Experiment with the following suggestions to find out which method is most beneficial for a healthier night’s sleep.
Menopausal women need to be mindful of their caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and it can take longer than eight hours to exit your system. Additionally, caffeine naturally triggers hot flashes, which can lead to night sweats that cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. It is also recommended to avoid alcohol consumption, especially before bed, because it triggers hot flashes and makes it difficult for you to remain asleep through the night. Alcohol before bed also prevents you from entering restorative stages of sleep.
Keep Bedtime Consistent
Some people like to play the catch up game with sleep. What we mean by this is that they sleep excessively on the weekend, or days off, to make up for lack of sleep during the workweek. It is more beneficial to go to bed during a specific one or two-hour time frame, and the same thing applies for waking up. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule can improve sleep quality and your ability to fall asleep.
A study at Northwestern University found that regular aerobic exercise might improve the quality of your sleep and overall mood. The study included 23 sedentary women over age 55 with insomnia. Half of the women did moderate aerobic exercise four times a week. The women who exercised significantly improved sleep quality, and the study found that exercising at least two to three hours (if not more) before bed did not disrupt the natural sleep cycle.
Keep It Cool
Make sure the bedroom is cool and comfortable to avoid night sweats and hot flashes. You don’t want to be going to bed in a room that is as hot as a humid summer day in Florida. It is recommended to wear breathable sleepwear that is 100% cotton because synthetic materials can increase the likelihood of hot flashes.
If these tips do not help you sleep through the night, you may want to consider seeing a sleep specialist. Don’t feel embarrassed about this because sleep troubles are more common than you think. Address the problem to avoid future health complications that stem from poor sleeping patterns.