The sleeplessness associated with menopause can have a profound effect on your day-to-day quality of life. While sleep disruptions vary with factors such as age, lifestyle and ethnicity, the vast majority of women face a unique form of insomnia due to hormonal imbalances brought on by menopause.
What exactly is Menopause Sleeplessness
This menopausal symptom is defined as consistently getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of restful sleep. During menopause, sleeplessness can result from inability to fall asleep, frequent waking during the night (often related to night sweats), and the inability to get back to sleep once woken.
Symptoms of Sleeplessness
The symptoms can range from insomnia itself to the effects of inadequate sleep on the female body. The primary symptom of menopause sleeplessness is the inability to fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time (considered by most sleep experts to be roughly half an hour). Women may also experience frequent waking during the night – as well as an inability to fall back to sleep once awakened.
Many women also experience night sweats – nighttime hot flashes that are one of the primary causes of menopause insomnia. Night sweats can leave menopausal women suddenly waking with rising temperatures and heavy perspiration, further exacerbating menopause sleeplessness.
Another hallmark of menopause sleeplessness is lack of deep sleep, known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. For many women, this lack of REM sleep means a lower quality of rest, in addition to the inability to consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Menopausal sleeplessness can also trigger other signs of menopause, such as difficulty concentrating, mood instability, and depression.
Difficulty getting back to sleep
Lack of focus
Causes of Sleeplessness
There are a great many factors that can cause sleeplessness. The primary cause, however, is the hormonal imbalance that occurs during menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone are linked to the sleep function. A decline in estrogen affects the body’s ability to use magnesium, which relaxes the muscles, while progesterone regulates drowsiness and the ability to fall asleep. Both of these hormones are regulated by communication among the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the ovaries, and it is this communication that is disrupted by menopause.
In addition to hormonal causes, lifestyle triggers may exacerbate sleeplessness during menopause, including exercising too close to bedtime, eating spicy foods, smoking and using alcohol. Environmental factors, such as an overheated bedroom or uncomfortable nightclothes, are also common causes.
Menopause Sleeplessness Treatments
Making lifestyle and environmental changes should be your first step in treating sleeplessness, but generally speaking, these changes are not completely effective. Some women also turn to pharmaceutical sleep aids, which can carry with them side effects – as well as the possibility of dependency. Over-the-counter sleep aids may also be useful, though often they provide low or short-term relief.
Risks of Menopause Sleeplessness
There are a number of risks associated with menopause sleeplessness. Without the proper amount of restful sleep, daytime functionality and quality of life are affected. You may find it difficult to concentrate or unable to remember things. Lack of sleep results in irritability – and, possibly, depression. Combined with the concentration issue, this may cause problems in your professional and personal relationships. A slower reaction time may make you prone to accidents. Additionally, lack of sleep has a negative effect on your immune system, so you may find yourself falling ill more frequently. Lack of proper sleep has also been linked to weight gain.