4 ways to stop hormones from ruining your sleep
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Read on as we unpack how menopause can make it harder to get your zzzs, and what menopause and sleep treatments are worth your money and time
When we think of menopause, many of us immediately think of symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain. But did you know that insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause?
In fact, aAccording to the National Sleep Foundation, around 61% of menopausal women have trouble sleeping.
The good news is that you don’t have to put up with tossing and turning all night. Read on to learn more about the treatments for sleep problems associated with menopause actually Work. Sleep disorders? Don’t miss our guide to treating insomnia while you’re here.
What is the connection between menopause and sleep?
First, let’s examine what causes menopause — and the sleep problems that come with it — in the first place.
As women or people with periods get older, their ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. These are the female hormones that regulate menstruation, and their decline causes your period to eventually miss (menopause is usually diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a period).
But estrogen and progesterone have other important effects on the brain — like helping us fall asleep and stay asleep. Each of these hormones plays a variety of different roles in our sleep-wake cycle — for example, progesterone can help us relax, while estrogen can help keep our body temperature at the level we need it to drop.
“The majority of women going through perimenopause or menopause experience trouble sleeping, but many don’t realize that it’s directly related to the low hormone levels that are occurring,” she says Doctor Louise Newson, GP, renowned menopause specialist and founder of the Menopause Support App, balance.
“Estrogen levels tend to be lowest in the early morning hours, which makes this a particularly bad time for many peri-menopausal women,” she continues.
What Causes Sleep Problems?
Low estrogen and progesterone levels can cause several symptoms that can disrupt a good night’s sleep. “Some women find it difficult to fall asleep, while others often wake up during the night,” she explains Kathryn Pinkhamfounder of The Sleep Clinic, one of the only specialist insomnia services in the UK. These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- restless legs
Pinkham explains that night sweats are the most common trigger. “Hot flashes and the resulting poor sleep can turn our bed into a place of panic when we’re trying to cool down,” she says says. “You try to calm down and go back to sleep, but your mind is racing and you can’t go back to sleep.”
She continues: “The next day you feel tired and emotional and desperate for a good night’s sleep so you can feel rested, but at night the pattern repeats and you’re fed up and worried about the effects, that has this on you. Unfortunately, that can turn into a vicious circle.”
What therapies are there for menopause and sleep?
There are many sleep aids and tips out there, from products like calming teas and sleep sprays to sleep hygiene advice like cutting out caffeine or putting away screens before bed. “The reality is that we don’t actually need any of these things to sleep well,” says Pinkham. “They can even get in the way and divert focus from what is actually a very natural process.”
Especially if your insomnia is caused by anxiety, Kathryn warns that these “quick fixes” could make it worse. Because the more we try to sleep, the more anxious we can become. Trying to reframe negative thinking also likely makes things worse since it’s impossible to turn our minds off.
Two important medically recognized forms of treatment for menopausal insomnia are cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and hormone replacement therapy. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i)
CBT for insomnia (CBT-i) is a type of talk therapy and is an NHS recommended treatment. By learning tools to help control our thoughts and take the pressure off sleep, CBT-i helps people learn new behaviors and thought patterns that promote a good night’s sleep. In fact, according to Pinkham, up to 80% of people experience improved sleep after treatment.
“While the reasons for poor sleep vary, insomnia caused by menopause follows a similar pattern to insomnia caused by any other event,” says Pinkham. “CBT allows us to address not what triggers the problem, but rather the habits, behaviors and thoughts that perpetuate it.”
Your doctor may be able to refer you through the NHS for a free CBT-i course, while visiting a private CBT therapist is likely to cost £50 or more per session. Another option is Pinkham’s Sleep well during menopause Online course currently priced at £225 and includes everything you would receive in in-person sessions.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT was once a source of controversy, largely because of a (now debunked) 2001 study that suggested the treatment caused a higher risk of breast cancer. It is now widely believed that the benefits outweigh any risks involved and that HRT will be available over the counter in the UK.
What is HRT?
Essentially, HRT replaces the hormones that decrease during menopause. This means it can improve a range of symptoms, from sleep to mood swings to a reduced sex drive. The drug is available in different forms such as B. as a tablet, skin patch, gel or cream.
“Menopause is a hormone deficiency, so the optimal treatment is hormone replacement,” says Doctor Newson. “There are different types and dosages and it is important that women receive individualized treatment. The majority of women who take the right dose and type of HRT for themselves find that their sleep really does improve.”
1. Always talk to your doctor if you have problems
They will be happy to discuss treatment options with you and help you decide what is best for you.
2. Don’t fall for quick fixes
As Pinkham points out, you shouldn’t need specific products or strict rules to get your 40 winks. It is better to tackle the root of your sleep problems with CBT-i or HRT.
3. Get the support you need from family, friends, and your workplace
Sleep is important to maintaining our well-being, and not getting enough of it can affect many areas of our lives.
Try this: Make sure your family, friends, and workplace know what you’re going through so you can get the support you deserve.
4. Know that it’s perfectly normal
Menopause is a natural and inevitable part of every woman’s life, so know that no matter what symptoms you’re experiencing, you’re in very good company. Luckily, more and more women are starting to question the taboo and talk about their own menopause experiences.
Remember, we can all do our part to keep the conversation going.