Why am I having trouble sleeping during menopause?

Hot flashes occur throughout the night disrupting deep sleep. You may not actually wake up, but your sleep is disturbed. With severe symptoms, you may wake up sweating, followed by a clammy feeling.

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Staness Jonekos
Health Education Specialist

Most of us blame night sweats for insomnia, but I was surprised to find out that many menopausal insomniacs don’t suffer from night sweats at all. So what’s keeping us up at night?

Empty nest syndrome, caring for aging parents, relationship changes, career adjustments and mid-life stress, bundled together with hormones in flux, is a recipe for sleepless nights. Progesterone is our sleep-promoting hormone, so a decrease in this hormone contributes to a night of tossing and turning. Declining estrogen can make you more susceptible to stress, fueling this sleepless potion.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

Sleep disturbances are almost as common a symptom during this time of life as hot flashes. Trouble falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep may be associated with the hormone changes of menopause, but it also seems to be a natural change with age as we see this in both men and women. We only have to compare infants to teens to the elderly to see big differences in sleep with age! As we age, the time spent in each the stages of sleep change and when we are Stage 1, the lightest sleep, we awaken even more easily. It is important to have a comfortable room temperature and decrease bright lights so that we are not fully awakened from Stage 1. You may need to turn your digital clock away and change the type of night clothes you wear. Since these changes are normal and long term, it is not recommended that you use sleeping pills as dependency to the pills can develop very quickly. A group of interventions, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is the most effective approach if your sleep disturbance is leaving you feeling fatigued the following day.

Dr. Masoud Sadighpour

This is a complex issue.

  • Hormonal changes which causes some level of mood disorder.
  • Menopause for some might bring the idea of losing womanhood which might be a source of anxiety or depression.
  • As recent research showed, human being sleeping pattern was different in old ages. It consisted of 2 blocks of 3-4 hours of sleep. New social structure which made us to go to work early morning and electricity pushed these 2 blocks of sleep in one block of 7-8 hours of sleep. Now think about Menopause for mothers with grown up children means some "retirement from family obligations". Then there is no obligation to wake up at 6-7 am and help the kids to get ready. Does it mean that now our gene kicks in again and women wake up earlier in the morning?
  • The more we grow older, there is more chance we snore and develop "sleep apnea" which also can make our sleep fragmented.

Hope I gathered enough information here. For further reading please feel free to cruise: http://lasleepdr.com/10/common-sleep-disorders/insomnia.

Sigma Nursing
Administration Specialist
Menopause can cause sleep disruptions. Many women have insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) or find they wake up early. Night sweats, which are hot flashes at night, might wake you up or make it difficult to sleep.

Experts say that trouble sleeping is part of the aging process, and may (or may not) be related to hormonal changes. Some women in menopause become depressed, which can make sleeping difficult. Sleep disorders such as apnea (when you temporarily stop breathing) and restless leg syndrome are common in this age group.

There are some home remedies you can try to help yourself fall (and stay) asleep at night. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine (especially in the hours before bedtime), might help.

Try using cotton sheets and wearing cotton pajamas instead of silk or a synthetic material. Take a cool shower before you head off to bed. Also try staying on a regular sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time in the morning.

Eat your meals on a regular schedule as well, avoiding late-night snacking or late-night dinners.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also help with sleep problems, but you should talk with your doctor about whether you’re a candidate for HRT and about the risks and benefits of these drugs.

Insomnia has been well correlated with poor sleep quality in women who are transitioning through menopause. Several factors are thought to influence sleep during menopause including hot flashes, polypharmacy, and sedentary lifestyle. Depressed mood can also be a factor in patients with insomnia. Because of the broad variety of reasons why a menopausal female might have trouble sleeping, I would recommend having a discussion with your family physician. A little bit of sleep hygiene can go a long way and if hot flashes are a factor, they can sometimes be medically controlled.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

If you are having trouble sleeping, your menopausal symptoms might be to blame but that’s not always the case. You could have a sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, conditions which sometimes surface during middle age. Or perhaps you are having trouble because some psychological factor is keeping you up at night. Sometimes it is caused by medications you are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter.

Sleep can also be sabotaged by menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, drenching night sweats, stress from the day, depression and anxiety. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, or you get up a lot during the night, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor. Sleep problems are important to get under control so you don't enter a vicious cycle that will be hard to break and make menopause even worse.

Administration Specialist

Women report the most trouble sleeping during the years from peri- to post-menopause. As many as 61 percent report symptoms of insomnia, says the National Sleep Foundation. 

There are a number of reasons why women have trouble sleeping during menopause. So many things come together at once to cause these sleeping issues. Hot flashes -- also known as night sweats when they occur during sleep -- start with a rise in your body temperature and end with you throwing off the covers and all your clothes. They not only can interrupt your sleep, but may keep you from getting back to sleep. Did you know the average hot flash could last up to three minutes? A few of these each night sure put a cramp in your sleeping style.

Mood disorders that come along with hormonal shifts can keep your mind racing at inopportune times. And just the anxiety of knowing that you haven't slept well since who-knows-when can set you into a cascade of more anxiety and worry that you won't sleep again tonight. Also, it's inevitable that you will have other things crowding your mind with worry, among them aging parents, chronic pain, your career, your children or your relationship.

Don't discount those late-night trips to the bathroom, either. As the bladder muscle ages along with the rest of you, its capacity to store urine diminishes.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.