Ahh, midlife. The kids are all grown up. You finally feel like you’ve got things on lock down. But then menopause steps in to throw a wrench into your plans. We’ve talked about menopause a little bit before. Mainly how it impacts the bladder and can interfere with sex. But did you know that one of the earliest signs of menopause is insomnia? Let’s take a look at how menopause can affect your sleep cycle, shall we?
The Skinny on Life During Menopause, Besides Insomnia
As you probably already know, menopause occurs when our body decides to cease the baby-making process. It typically happens between 40 and 60 years old. You’ve officially hit menopause when you’ve had 12 consecutive months without a period. It’s a roller coaster, and admittedly, not the most fun one you’ll ride in your life. There are many symptoms that come along with menopause, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irregular periods. You’re probably irritable, ready to bite the head off of your closest friend or family member. Plus sessions in the sack can be a little painful, uncomfortable, and lackluster. And on top of it all, you can’t even sleep it off. You may find yourself awake half the night and struggling to sleep for the rest of it.
Insomnia During Menopause: Whyyyyy?
With everything you’ve got going on, it can already be hard to sleep during midlife. But it gets even harder when menopause joins the party. More than half of all women going through menopause have trouble falling and staying asleep. Outside of life’s everyday challenges, there are many changes happening in your body that may be responsible for keeping you awake. Let’s take a deeper look at the reasons you may be up all night.
Hormones Can Disrupt Sleep
Hormones like progesterone regulate our sleep cycles, but they are thrown off balance during menopause. This can cause drowsiness during the day and an inability to fall or stay asleep at night.
Both life and your changing hormones can create anxiety and depression, and it’s made worse during menopause. More than 20% of women will deal with depression during menopause.
Hot and Bothered, But Not In A Good Way
The fluctuation of hormones that happens during menopause can affect how our body regulates temperature. You might find yourself waking up covered in sweat, and the temperature changes can keep you from falling asleep again. Plus, the adrenaline that accompanies hot flashes and night sweats can make you feel more awake than ever.
Bladder leak can creep up on us at any moment, even when we’re asleep. A weakened pelvic wall from previous pregnancies, childbirth, and more can lead to late-night leakage (and incontinence during the day, too). And those leaks can wake you up at night, and keep you up. (Psst…our Lily Bird pads and undies can help).
Tingling and unease in the legs can make you feel uncomfortable while lying down. If you struggle with restless legs, you know the only thing you want to do is get up and move them around. Obviously, this isn’t going to help you fall asleep any time soon.
Our hormones regulate just about everything our bodies do, but did you know that they can affect how well you breathe, too? The hormone progesterone may be responsible for dilating our airways, but during menopause less progesterone is produced. This leads to difficulty breathing and can cause sleep apnea.
Menopause May Not Be The Only Reason for Insomnia
Changes from menopause may not be the only thing keeping you up at night. Let’s face it, you have a busy life. You’re working on your career while seeing the kids off to their lives outside of the nest. Your parents are aging and may need more of your time. You may be working towards fulfillment in life and work or even trudging through a midlife crisis. Menopausal symptoms certainly don’t help, but they may not be the only things keeping you up, either.
There’s Hope for Sleepless Nights
Well, that’s a long list of insomnia-causing ailments. But it’s important information all of us savvy women entering menopause. Luckily for those of us dealing with menopause-induced insomnia, there are some things that can help. For starters, practice good sleep hygiene by keeping the room dark and cool and staying off your phone at least an hour before bed. Write down all the things that have been bothering you before you go to sleep to help mitigate any anxiety. Cooling, moisture-wicking blankets and sheets wouldn’t hurt either, and can help you stay cool and dry when you get night sweats. Don’t rely on sleeping medication to help you through the night, you don’t want to get addicted to a temporary solution. If things are really piling up, it may be time to see a doctor.
Yes, it’s true, the menopausal transition is a difficult time, but it doesn’t have to slow you down or keep you from the things you love. The hot flashes and sleepless nights are temporary while your body adjusts. You’ll be much more comfortable, and rested, on the other side.
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By Jessica Thomas, MPH