Sleep (or rather no sleep) is a major difficulty in perimenopause and menopause. Sleep coach Talia Shapero shares important information for every menopause goddess in this guest blog post. Enjoy Part I of II.
PART I: MENOPAUSE AND SLEEP CHALLENGES
Menopause is a significant time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change. As levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone decline, this can have a knock-on effect on mood, appetite, energy, sex drive, cognitive and emotional function. And then come the sleep disturbances…
Sleep issues are common during this transitional time, with sleep disorders affecting 39 to 47% of perimenopausal women and 35 to 60% of postmenopausal women. The most common sleep complaints include hot flashes, trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep and during this time, women are at an increased risk of developing insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
In general, as you age, your sleep-wake cycle loses its strength and consistency. You produce less melatonin and gradually start spending less time in deep sleep. And then to further complicate things, sleep can be disrupted by the symptoms that accompany menopause.
Estrogen and progesterone play a role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle and also act as a protective mechanism against sleep apnea. Estrogen also helps regulate your body temperature at night and even has an antidepressant effect. So during perimenopause and menopause, when levels of estrogen and progesterone are declining, you may experience higher body temperatures, lower quality sleep, anxiety, and poor mood.
Women also may begin taking medications, whether due to menopause or other symptoms of aging, which may interfere with their sleep. And physical pain or discomfort such as sore joints, body aches, and bladder problems associated with aging can also contribute to sleep problems.
Furthermore, while the sleep changes that occur with menopause may be linked to the above factors, it’s also possible they’re brought on by other life stresses or conditions that happen to occur around these years. For example, empty nesting, being part of the sandwich generation (i.e. caring for aging parents and children at the same time), and concerns about careers or aging can contribute to sleep challenges. And sleep and stress have an incredibly important bi-directional relationship: we need sleep to balance our stress hormones but stress and anxiety can make it hard to sleep.
SUPPORTING SLEEP IN MENOPAUSE
When I work with clients, I like to stabilize the foundation of good sleep, which includes:
Getting the Right Light at the Right Time – exposing yourself to bright outdoor light first thing in the AM and anytime throughout the day and limiting bright light (esp blue light) in the hour before bed
Keeping a Consistent Sleep/Wake Schedule – waking up and going to bed at the same time each day (7 days a week)
Winding Down – setting limits and keeping boundaries between busy days to day activities and sleep, which includes implementing a consistent wind-down routine
But for menopause in particular, there are a few other practices that have also been known to be helpful to alleviate sleep issues.
Hormonal Support – In certain cases, sleep disturbances are often well treated with low doses of estrogen and possibly progesterone (this is something you’d have to discuss with your healthcare provider).
Keeping Cool – Wearing and sleeping in and on natural fiber materials that can wick away sweat and help regulate your temperature is key. Pajamas made from natural cottons and bamboo are great. In terms of your bedding, try out materials like pima or supima cotton, percale, Egyptian cotton, bamboo and linen, silk or jersey. Anecdotally, clients have found it useful to suck on an ice cube when they’re having a hot flash at night – this helps keep them cool without having to drink a whole glass of water and then running the risk of additional sleep disruptions as a result of having to urinate.
Keeping Calm – Make time to process your thoughts and feelings and engage in regular stress-reduction practices. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and mind-body techniques such as guided imagery, breathwork, and yoga have been found to be useful in addressing some of the anxieties that surround sleep.
Poor sleep may be a symptom of menopause but there are ways to improve it. If you’re finding that your sleep has changed for the worse during this transitional time, you may want to consider working with a sleep coach. Stay tuned for Part II: Working with a Sleep Coach to Overcome Sleep Challenges During Menopause.
I’m currently offering a couple of different sleep coaching and consulting packages and if you’re interested in learning more about how I can help you, drop me a line or book a free 20-minute discovery call to find out more about my services and how you can restore your sleep to restore yourself.
Stay tuned for Part II next week.