The menopause can cause a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms and, for many women, this includes sleep problems. Some women may experience a brief bout of restless nights and others may develop more long-term conditions such as insomnia. Sleeping difficulties can lead to other problems, such as daytime drowsiness, and can have a generally negative impact on your life, so it’s important to understand what’s causing the issue and how it can be dealt with.
How Menopause Symptoms Affect Sleep
The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s hormones. Oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and this drop in hormones can unsettle the system, sometimes causing restless nights and an inability to get to sleep. Waning levels of oestrogen also leave women more prone to stress, which can contribute to sleep problems.
Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. A hot flush is a sudden feeling of heat in your upper body, which can sometimes make you sweat. If these occur in the night, they’re referred to as night sweats. When experiencing a hot flush or night sweat, you’re likely to feel a change in heart rate. It may become very rapid, strong or irregular. This can jolt you awake and possibly leave you in too much discomfort to get back to sleep.
What You Can Do
There are a number of simple steps you can take that may help you sleep better, so try these first.
Small changes can help you keep your temperature more normal during the night. You could try wearing loose clothing made of natural fibres to bed and try keeping your bedroom cool and well-ventilated.
Try taking a hot water bottle filled with cold water to bed with you. A spritzer bottle is also very beneficial and the refreshing spray of cold water over your body and face, is often enough to allow you to drift off to sleep.
Do your best to maintain a regular bedtime schedule. You should avoid excessive caffeine intake and naps during the day, both of which will make it more difficult for you to sleep at night. A regular exercise regime can also help you maintain a healthy sleep pattern, although you should avoid doing exercise right before sleep.
Sometimes certain foods, such as spicy meals, can exacerbate sweating, so try to avoid eating anything you think might be a trigger. If you’re taking any prescription medications, these may be contributing to your sleep problems, so check this with you doctor.
If good habits aren’t enough to help you get the sleep you need, discuss medication options with your GP. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can relieve some of the symptoms of menopause, by replacing some of the hormones that are at a lower level. This may reduce any uncomfortable feelings that are making it difficult for you to get enough sleep. There are also other drugs, such as clonidine, which can reduce hot flushes and night sweats.
The symptoms of menopause can be uncomfortable but they are also most often manageable. Getting enough sleep is important, so if you’re experiencing difficulties that you can’t overcome alone, make sure you get the medical advice you need.
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