Insomnia during menopausal fairly common. In fact, epidemiological studies found insomnia increased from 12 to 40% in midlife women. Post-menopausal women also experience sleeping problems with as many as 61% reporting sleep disturbances according to the National Sleep Foundation. Different factors are contributing to the onset of insomnia symptoms in women in their 40s and 50s.
Previously, it was commonly accepted that insomnia during menopause was mainly caused by hot flashes, but current studies show that insomnia during menopause is caused by the multiple factors that happen during this stage of life.
Here, we explain why menopause affects a woman’s sleeping habits and facts about insomnia.
Menopause hot flashes are a disorder of the body’s thermoregulation system, and which manifests as feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by profuse sweating. It is often a result of hormonal changes such as lower estrogen levels during menopause. They are one of the primary symptoms of perimenopause – the transitioning period when a woman’s body transitions from fertility to permanent infertility known as menopause.
Hot flashes often occur during the night disrupting normal sleep. While hot flashed do not reduce the amount of sleep, they do lead to fragmented sleep. Since the body’s circadian rhythm is partially controlled by the core body temperature, a sudden rise in core body temperature during a hot flash is what causes a woman to wake up suddenly.
Primary Sleep Disorders
Snoring, Obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder are very common in menopausal women. Primary sleep disorders are often overlooked by doctors when addressing insomnia in menopausal women. This is because hot flashes often mask the presence of a primary sleep disorder which is a common occurrence in midlife women.
In one study, 102 midlife women who reported sleep problems underwent polysomnography testing. The study found that half (53%) of the women suffered from some form of a primary sleep disorder. Treating hot flashes with hormone replacement therapy may mitigate sleep disturbances to some extent, but it is also important to address any underlying primary sleep disorder.
Women experience a host of changes during their midlife years, which may lead to psychological disturbances. Women in midlife often feel pressured by the different life demands at this time of life, such as caring for their family and aging parents. Marital dissatisfaction was also found to cause sleep disturbances according to a study on women drawn from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Sleep disturbances caused by psychological disturbances such as depression and anxiety usually manifest as not being able to fall asleep, waking up early or sleeping too little or too much.
While hot flashes, primary sleep disorders, and psychological stress can result in themselves cause major sleep problems during menopause, the problem can become even worse with life stresses. Having a poor sleeping hygiene can lead to a disrupted circadian rhythm. Irregular working schedules can also wreak havoc on your body’s internal clock. Too much alcohol and caffeine may also disrupt your sleep and contribute to worse hot flashes according to the Australasian Menopause Society.
Establishing a regular sleeping rhythm while eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may help reduce sleep disturbances during menopause as explained in a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. The study found that sleep disturbances were more common in women with lower quality of life, mental health issues, and who lived a sedentary lifestyle.
Changing Hormone Levels
Changes in hormonal levels can also cause sleep disturbances unrelated to hot flashes. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the highest percentage of women reported having sleep problems at the beginning and end of their cycles. High follicle-stimulating hormone levels were associated with sleep problems in perimenopausal women while progesterone was associated with sleep disturbances in premenopausal women.
The study also found that mood and hot flashes were the strongest contributing factors predicting sleep problems in women. Treating hormonal problems with estrogen and hormone replacement therapy is frequently recommended for hot flashes and sleep disturbances during menopause. Natural supplements like EstroSense from Preferred Nutrition may also help balance your body’s hormones and help with menopause-related insomnia.
Menopause can cause a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms with insomnia being the most debilitating problem women experience during menopause. Hot flashes are probably the number one contributing factor in menopause-related sleep problems, but as studies show, insomnia during menopause is caused by multiple factors, all of which need to be addressed separately to treat insomnia successfully during menopause.
Also watch video on: Menopause and Body Changes – What You Need to Know