The Importance of Sleep During Menopause and Beyond
Sleep is essential for our health and well-being, but many women struggle with sleep problems during menopause and older age. And don’t write this off if you don’t fit this target audience, these facts and tips are good for anyone.
Sleep issues can affect physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as overall quality of life. Below, we will explore some causes and consequences of poor sleep in women during this stage of life, and investigate tips on how to improve sleep quality and quantity.
How Does Menopause Affect Sleep?
Menopause is the natural transition that occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Usually this happens between ages of 45 and 55, but it varies from person to person. Menopause can cause a variety of symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and weight gain.
One of the most disruptive symptoms is sleep disturbance. Many women experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling refreshed after waking during menopause. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 61% of postmenopausal women reported having insomnia symptoms.
There are several reasons why menopause can affect sleep quality and quantity.
Some of them are:
- Hormonal changes: The decline in estrogen and progesterone levels can disrupt the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Estrogen also helps regulate body temperature, so its loss can cause hot flashes and night sweats that can interrupt sleep. Progesterone has a sedative effect, so its loss can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Health conditions: Menopause can increase the risk of developing health problems that can interfere with sleep, such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and urinary incontinence. Some of these might cause pain, discomfort, or frequent urination that disrupt sleep. Others may affect mood, energy levels, or cognitive function that can affect the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Lifestyle factors: Menopause can also affect lifestyle choices influencing sleep quality and quantity. For example, some women may cope with menopausal symptoms by ingesting more caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or spicy foods, which may exacerbate the negative effects on sleep. Some may also reduce physical activity or social engagement due to symptoms, which may affect mood and sleep.
Why Is Sleep Important for Women During This Time?
Sleep is important for feeling rested and alert during the day, and also for maintaining optimal health and well-being through life. Poor sleep can have serious consequences for women at this stage of life.
Some of them are:
- Increases the risk of chronic diseases: Poor sleep impairs immune system function and increases inflammation, which may contribute to the development. or worsening, of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases in turn, affect sleep, creating a vicious cycle.
- Decreases cognitive function: Poor sleep can affect the ability to process information, store memories, focus, solve problems, and make decisions. Poor sleep can also increase the risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
- Reduces mental health: Poor sleep affects mood and emotional state. It can increase the risk of developing or worsening depression or anxiety disorders. It can also reduce resilience and coping skills when facing stressful life events or transitions.
- Lowers quality of life: Poor sleep affects overall quality of life. It can reduce energy levels, motivation, productivity, creativity, and enjoyment of daily activities. It can also affect relationships with partners, family members, friends, and co-workers.
Tips to Improve Sleep Quality and Quantity (good for ANYONE)
With all of that said, there are many ways to improve sleep quality and quantity.
Some of them are:
- Practice good sleep hygiene: These are habits and behaviors that promote, or hinder, good sleep. Some of the best practices are:
- Set and stick to a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays.
- Create a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment, with a dark, quiet, cool, and clean bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and heavy or spicy meals close to bedtime, as they can disrupt your sleep quality or quantity.
- Avoid using electronic devices such as TVs, computers, smartphones, or tablets before bed and in the bedroom, as they emit blue light that suppresses the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep. Consider blue-blocking glasses at night.
- Do relaxing activities before bed, such as reading, listening to music, meditating, or doing breathing exercises, to help unwind and prepare for sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity benefits sleep and health. It can help regulate body temperature, reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and energy levels, and prevent or manage chronic diseases. Try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can delay sleep.
- Acknowledge and learn to manage your unique symptoms: It’s important to acknowledge these symptoms as normal and experiment with things that help your unique needs. Consider possible treatments or remedies such as, hormone therapy, non-hormonal medications, herbal supplements, dietary changes, or lifestyle modifications.
- Seek social support: A strong social network can help you cope with challenges and changes that come with this life stage. It can also provide emotional support, companionship, and opportunities for fun and relaxation and stress relief.
- Seek medical help as needed: If you have severe or persistent sleep problems that interfere with your daily functioning or health, consult your doctor or a sleep specialist. They can diagnose any underlying medical conditions or sleep disorders that may be affecting your sleep.
The most important thing for me, as I approach my 60’s, has been to accept this stage of life and find my own methods of moving through it without resisting the change. The worst thing to do is to stress about your lack of sleep! That lingering stress only contributes to more issues. Express self-compassion and a curious mindset to embrace the new normal.
We have created a 6-week program launching January 24, 2024 – Managing Menopause – designed to give you agency over this change of life. Read on for details and registration is now open OR reply to this email for questions.
Feel your youngest – before, during and after menopause! No one taught you how to live well through mid-life. No one taught you that menopause was manageable. That’s why we created this 6-week on-line program.
This facilitated program was designed to assess where you are, how you feel, and uncover key habits to live well.
We will cover a variety of topics including Movement, Meals, Moderation, Mindfulness, Lifestyle Choices for Healthier Habits, Building and Maintaining Muscle, Managing Mood Swings, and more!
During the program, you will learn techniques to improve focus, enhance sleep, build self-awareness and self-compassion, foster community and stronger connections.
What to expect? Expect group lessons, discussions and homework for you to build enhanced awareness and agency over your own life and health.
What will I gain? Access to a like-minded community, Useful tools, myths debunked, a safe space for discussion, and full access to the presenters.