Perhaps one of the most difficult issues during menopause is how the hormone imbalances affect the sleep cycle. Personally this has been a huge struggle for me and I am still trying to find the best way to cope. A woman’s sleep cycle can go from one extreme to the other, from sleeping excessive amount of hours one day to being wide awake at night and unable to fall asleep even while being exhausted the next night. Furthermore, it is very common to fall asleep as normal but then wake up at odd hours in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. The exhaustion that follows this pattern along with having to battle other menopause symptoms can be extremely debilitating. The sleep cycle imbalances tend to be more difficult during the pre-menopause years. Many women during this stage are still raising young or teenage children, caring for aging parents, holding down full time jobs and even one night of no sleep can totally throw women out of whack.
The problem of course is the erratic hormone fluctuations that cause all the menopausal problems. There are even additional problems that come into play in this area. The hot flashes and night sweats that are so common during menopause make it extremely difficult to sleep or to get restful sleep. Menopause is also a time when many women put on extra weight that can contribute to snoring and even obstructive sleep apnea that make it impossible to get good solid sleep. Restless leg syndrome is another condition that increases with age and is commonly seen in menopausal women.
Some coping skills and sleep improvement suggestions include keeping a regular bedtime routine and schedule and avoiding naps during the day. Avoid excessive caffeine and stop caffeine intake 5 hours prior to bedtime. Exercise is helpful but should not be done within 2 hours of bedtime. No heavy meals should be eaten within 2 hours of bedtime either, but a light high carbohydrate snack may be beneficial close to bedtime to raise serotonin levels and enhance a state of calm. Keeping the bedroom cool and wearing loose fitting clothing made of natural fibers is best. If these techniques don’t work or for women with severe sleep problems, there are many options in vitamins and herbs on the market. As a last resort, women can go the medical route and discuss with their doctors the option of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or prescription sleep medication.