It’s common for women to struggle with sleep through the menopause.
According to sleep expert Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from the London Sleep Centre, it’s normal for women to find they suddenly have sleeping problems as they get older. It’s often down to levels of progesterone and oestrogen – both sleep-promoting hormones – decreasing during the menopause.
Ready for a restful slumber? These expert tips will help you drift off…
Even if you’ve previously been a good sleeper, chances are you might still struggle with sleep through the menopause. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 61% of postmenopausal women have reported insomnia symptoms. And those who do nod off may have poorer sleep quality.
As well as our declining hormones, we also lose cells that make sleep- promoting substances, such as melatonin, and our brain volume shrinks, which makes falling asleep more difficult.
What’s more, we also get less stage 3 (slow-wave or deep) sleep, which is the most restful.
It’s a common misconception that we need less sleep as we age. In fact, our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood.
If you don’t get enough restorative shut-eye, you’ll not only suffer from fatigue, but also potentially migraines, IBS, skin are-ups and impaired immunity, explains Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert and ambassador for Benenox Overnight Recharge supplements.
Night sweats and increased anxiety cause by hormonal changes can impact your slumber, but it’s possible to overcome them and get a good night’s sleep through the menopause.
Symptom: Hot flushes (aka night sweats)
These are the sudden feelings of intense heat that spread mainly through the face, neck and chest and are caused by changing hormone levels affecting the body’s internal thermostat. Some women get them at night and wake up dripping in sweat.
Tackle it: “A cooler brain switches on the circadian timer, which is part of the brain’s pineal gland, which controls the sleep cycle,” explains Dr Ramlakhan. Keep your room well ventilated and between 16-19°C, and sleep in cotton nightwear and sheets.
You could also try these clever tips
- Turn your hot-water bottle into a cold-water bottle. Simply fill with cold water, chill in the freezer, wrap in a pillowcase and take to bed.
- Have a tepid shower or bath before bed. Don’t use cold water, which will actually make your temperature rise. If you don’t have time for a full wash, just run your feet and wrists under water before bed.
- Soak your socks. Your body heat will cause the water to evaporate, lowering your temperature.
Hormonal changes, life stresses and worries about your changing body can all lead to anxiety at this time.
“Problems can seem heightened when we go to bed, and when we wake at night,” explains Dr Ramlakhan. “From an evolutionary point of view and with the physiology of human nature, we drop our guard in the hours before sleep, which can make us more vulnerable to stress and concerns.”
Tackle it: “Most people wake up between 2-4am and then struggle to get back to sleep due to stress and worries manifesting themselves,” explains Dr Ramlakhan.
Try acceptance and commitment therapy. This works for those of you who can’t get to sleep or those who wake up in the middle of the night. It’s all about accepting and acknowledging the negative thoughts that go through your mind when you can’t sleep, instead of battling with them and trying to block them, which can be exhausting.
Ultimate secrets to sleeping well
Save your bed for sleep and sex: Even reading in bed is an apparent no-no.
“Anything that stimulates your brain or triggers the release of pleasure hormones, such as dopamine and adrenaline, will keep you awake,” says Dr Ebrahim.
Stay hydrated: “Not only do you lose water throughout the night, but being well hydrated can help reduce waking and disruptions caused by dehydration, such as dry mouth and leg cramps,” says Dr Ramlakhan.
She recommends drinking consistently throughout the day to top up levels.
Go to bed early: Dr Ramlakhan suggests hitting the hay early three or four nights a week.
“Aim for around 9.30 or 10pm, as the 90 minutes before midnight make up the most enriching phase of sleep,” she says.