Sleep issues are pretty common in women who enter the menopausal period. The decline in estrogen and progesterone production impacts the whole body and hence, takes a toll on proper sleep.
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flushes, different types of pain, frequent urination, mood swings, and weight gain.
This article will show you how these symptoms can affect your sleep and aggravate your existing sleep issues in a few surprising ways.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats
Night sweats are the most common menopausal symptom. They are often caused by vessel dilation and increased blood flow which can raise body temperature. According to a survey published in the Climacteric journal, , 79% of perimenopausal and 65% of postmenopausal women experience hot flashes throughout both day and night. The connection between hot flushes and the quality of your sleep is pretty straightforward. Your body typically drops the core temperature during the night to maintain the sleepy state and produce melatonin. When the temperature suddenly raises, this can wake you up and make it difficult to fall back asleep.
Now, even though you cannot predict when the hot flush appears, you can change your bedroom to help yourself sleep cooler:
?Use natural materials-Linen, silk, or cotton bedding, as well as natural pajamas with a loose fit, will allow your body to withdraw heat faster without feeling sweaty.
?? Tweak your thermostat. Scientists suggest that the optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67F/ 15-20C. This temperature range will help feel cooler and boost your melatonin, so you will sleep soundly.
?Cut down diet triggers. Spicy foods and caffeinated drinks can warn you up and raise blood pressure, leading to more pronounced and frequent hot flashes.
One of the main functions of estrogen in female bodies is emotional regulation. This hormone launches the production of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline — the three neurotransmitters that control your mood. Since estrogen production declines during menopause, the levels of these neurotransmitters will also decrease.
This may result in the following symptoms:
?lowered stress tolerance;
?anger tantrums and irritability.
Decreased levels of serotonin, which has potent sleep-promoting properties, can also mess with your sleep stages and alter the structure of your sleep, making it less restorative. This is why many perimenopausal women — around 56%, according to the data published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep — experience sleep difficulties and insomnia episodes during the hormonal readjustment. Top it with the fact that sleep disruption is a major trigger for mood disorders themselves, and you’ll get a vicious circle.
The good thing is, there are a few ways to cope with these symptoms (assuming they’re not severe):
?Meditation. A guided meditation session with controlled breathing techniques is a great way to switch off the racing thoughts and feel calmer.
?Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT will help you understand how your thoughts affect your behaviors and will help build healthy coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety.
?Adaptogens. Herbal remedies with the potent calming effect — such as valerian root, passionflower, or lavender — will make a great addition to your sleeping routine. Use them in aromatherapy sessions or put them into boiling water and drink as tea before bed.
Weight gain is another common symptom during menopause. And yes, there’s a connection between weight gain and sleep.
These are as follows:
?Impulsive eating behavior. During sleep, our body restores glycogen deposits in the liver and muscle tissue and then uses it as a source of glucose — the main cellular fuel for our organs and systems. So, when you don’t get enough sleep, your brain runs short on glucose much faster and may seek the ways to replenish it, so you’re more likely to crave something sweet or baked.
?Impaired hormonal production. We have two hormones that tell our brain when it’s time to eat: leptin (the satiety hormone) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Insufficient sleep wrecks the balance between them, increasing the levels of ghrelin and making you a less conscious eater.
?Insulin response. When you don’t get enough sleep, you may start eating high-sugar foods in larger quantities (as mentioned above). Thus, your blood sugar levels run high, and the pancreas starts to produce insulin to place it into cells. Typically, excessive sugar is converted to glycogen and goes into liver and muscle tissues, but once these deposits are full, you can expect a fat tissue build up. And that’s how you gain weight.
Women with declined estrogen production during menopause are more likely to get abdominal obesity when the fat is stored around the waist and hips. Abdominal fat is also a major risk factor for many chronic conditions, such as type II diabetes, heart diseases, and hypertension.
Bottom line? Prioritize your sleep and use stress-management techniques to make it more restorative and reduce impulsive eating behavior. Also, try to eat minimally processed foods and don’t skimp on fiber and protein.
Aches and Pains
Low estrogen levels can contribute to various types of pain, such as:
?Abdominal and vaginal cramps. As your body readjusts to a new hormonal situation, you might experience PMS-like symptoms: breast tenderness, bloating, and cramps.
?Headaches and migraines. Endorphins, such as serotonin, are our natural painkillers. They reduce painful sensations and make you relaxed. Since estrogen can control the production of these chemicals, you can become more prone to developing headaches during menopause, when estrogen levels are declined.
?Muscle and joint pain. Estrogen also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and when its levels drop, you can experience muscle soreness and joint pain.
Pain worsens sleep quality and may even cause changes in your sleep structure. Poor sleep, in turn, lowers your pain threshold and makes the negative symptoms of menopause even more uncomfortable.
Frequent visits to the bathroom during the night are common during menopause. When levels of estrogen decrease, the elasticity of pelvic muscles reduces and their tissue gets thinner. Both these factors contribute to poorer bladder control, making you wake up multiple times during the night. If you’re noticing this symptom, you can manage it with simple changes. Stay hydrated during the day (try to drink water every 2-3 hours to maintain the optimal fluid balance), and cut down alcohol and caffeine, as they might have a slight diuretic effect.