Covers on, covers off, covers on and covers off again – welcome to the menopause! It can be difficult trying to get a good night’s sleep. You have survived pregnancy and all the sleep issues it brings, the sleepless nights with your new-born baby, the night terrors with your toddler and being the late night taxi-service for your teens.
Just when your sleep routine is finally getting back to what it was before you had children, along comes the menopause and sleep routines will fly out of the window as once again you find yourself struggling to get a good night’s rest. Rest assured you are not alone, as menopause sleep problems in the UK are common. Here, we will look at ways in which you can improve your sleep routines and beat those hormones. Menopause and changes in your hormones are inevitable but, with the right plan of action you can reduce the effects on your sleep and become much more comfortable.
What is the menopause?
Typically occurring in the late 40s to early 50s, the menopause is a stage in life when a woman’s ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone and when menstruation stops. Menopause is a normal part of getting older and marks the end of the reproductive period of a woman’s life. The reduction of oestrogen in the body is what contributes to trouble when it comes to sleeping with hot flushes and night sweats, sometimes referred to as vasomotor symptoms. It brings with it a whole range of emotions, as well as medical issues and of course sleep problems. Some women welcome the menopause and the end of their periods, especially those who struggle with severe pains every month due to conditions such as endometriosis. However, it can also be a time of sadness, as not only are hormones all over the place but the end of a woman’s ability to have children can be distressing – even for those women who were finished having children.
What sleep issues might occur?
Unfortunately, for most women, menopause and sleep issues go hand in hand. Hot flushes followed by cold spells make it difficult to get to sleep at night, and you can go through stages where you are too hot with the covers on and too cold with them off. This, combined with the sweating that affects many women can, of course, lead to bouts of insomnia. A significant academic study carried out into the sleep patterns of women during the menopause found that 46% of women aged 40 – 54 years considered the sleep disturbance that they suffered during the menopausal period to be the most distressing symptom that occurred. This number rose to 48% in the 55-64 year age category. The study also found that because of the difficulties that many women encountered falling asleep, or staying asleep, they experienced greater levels of fatigue during the day
Another sleep problem during the menopause, sleep apnea can cause snoring issues which can make sleeping difficult. For the majority of women these sleep issues begin during the perimenopause; the period of time before the menopause begins, and carry on until well after the menopause. Other issues that might cause disrupted sleep during the menopause include:
- Restless leg syndrome – this is something that many women suffer from during their normal monthly menstrual cycles, and one thing that can be particularly beneficial for the discomfort is to eat food that is high in potassium, such as bananas.
If you are going through the menopause, can’t sleep and this is getting you down, then there are some steps that you can follow that may make sleeping a little easier.
What helps sleep during menopause?
Following a good routine, such as those discussed in our post “What to do before you go to bed” will give you a good idea of good sleep hygiene habits which are even more important during menopause.
Besides general sleep advice, there are specific things you can do to help you sleep better during the menopause and minimise being uncomfortable in bed. The NHS recommends making sure you’ve emptied your bladder and wear natural fibres in bed as a starting point, but the following are absolutely key in minimising night sweats and hot flashes too:
- Cotton or wool bedding are best for temperature regulation. We particularly love the quality of the bedding at John Lewis and The White Company.
- Cooler Pillows and Duvets made from natural or special temperature regulating materials.
If you’ve got your bedding and clothing sorted, your sleep hygiene routine is good and you’re still struggling, you may want to discuss your sleep issues with your GP. They will be able to discuss whether medication may be the most appropriate option for your needs and your GP will be able to recommend the best sleeping pills for menopause if this is a route that you feel is best for you. If you prefer not to take a sleeping pill, then a menopause sleep aid such as a herbal supplement may also be something that you could try. We recommend a few good ones on our Natural Sleep Aids page.