Insomnia and Menopause – what’s the connection?

Sleep is often stolen from us as we age...Why is it hard to sleep as we get older?

Yes, it is true that we may not need as much sleep as we get older, but many women report that the amount of sleep they get is often disturbed during menopause and beyond.  Disruption in our sleep patterns can affect our daily living, so getting enough shut eye is important for us all, especially as we get older.  It can be annoying to be stuck in a cycle of poor sleeping patterns, but there are some things you can do to help you achieve a good nights sleep. The transition into our later years should be an enjoyable one and poor sleep ain’t no fun…it is a time when our collective life experiences culminate into some great wisdom just waiting to be shared with others, so I hope this article can help you get back on track.

According to a study, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • 17% of perimenopausal women after menopause report trouble with falling asleep
  • 36% of women after menopause have trouble sleeping through the night
  • 56% of perimenopausal women report getting less than 7 hours of restful sleep a night
  • 40% of post menopausal women report getting less than 7 hours of restful sleep a night

Disrupted sleep and menopause – what's going on?

I treat a lot of women who are going through menopause and even those many years after who have a lot of challenges with their sleep. Whether it’s night sweats, bathroom breaks that get you up in the night, just waking up for no reason or waking really early, insomnia during and after menopause is a real health issue for women all over the world.

When we get older our body’s physiology changes and our ovaries no longer make the same amount of hormones (especially estrogen) as before and that decrease may be part of the reason why we experience all of these uncomfortable symptoms, including anxiety, mood disorders and sleep disruption.  Like I said above, it’s not just those going through menopause who suffer from lack of good sleep, I have spoken to many women in their late 60’s and late 70’s that still continue to feel the brunt of poor sleep each day. 

How can you improve your sleep quality?

Here are some tips…

  • Set up a good sleep habit at night – go to bed at the same time at night
  • Try using some essential oils to relax and calm your mind – lavender and chamomile have been known to have relaxing properties
  • Turn off or put away technology earlier at night to reduce your exposure to blue light and read a book…I even took up knitting at night to help get me out of my head by focusing on my hands
  • Try sleeping with a sleep mask – I added this for myself about a year ago
  • Don’t drink too much water late at night to avoid getting up in the night to use the washroom
  • Try listening to some guided meditation – there are many like headspace that may help you relax at night
  • Book an appointment with your acupuncture therapist for some treatment – we can treat insomnia and symptoms of menopause very well

Sleep from an eastern perspective

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we may experience disturbed sleep at any age and for many different reasons.  Insomnia during menopause and beyond is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for a lot of women. Menopause symptoms, such as sweating and hot flashes, often wake us from sleep or prevents us from falling back to sleep easily. Western doctors concluded that there is a connection to lack of sleep and the loss of estrogen, while eastern doctors look at insomnia during menopause as a slowing down and decline of our Kidney energy, essence, a decline of blood, our qi and yin.

TCM treats symptoms that disturb our sleep using acupuncture, dietary therapy and herbal medicine.  Each person is treated and diagnosed individually, as everyone experiences poor sleep due to a differentiating number of imbalances. If you are yin deficient you may experience insomnia, hair loss, dryness, tinnitus, hot flashes, night sweats and weakness in the low back and knees.  If you are blood deficient, you may also be feeling dizziness and memory loss as well as some of the other common symptoms listed above. When things get stagnated, you will feel irritable, nervous or emotional which can lead to insomnia.  A yang deficient person will feel cold in their hands and feet, have loose stool, a pale complexion and weak or sore low back and knees. Once our essence declines, our bone density decreases which is directly related to osteoporosis. Symptoms are often compounded from overwork, unmanaged stress, smoking, eat poorly or choosing a poor lifestyle.

What strategies can you use to get a better sleep?

Dr. Marcin shares some simple sleep tips from her article on Healthline…

  • Eat well and exercise – avoid eating late, sugary or processed foods and exercise regularly
  • Wear loose clothes to bed and use cotton sheets – natural fibres help the body to breathe
  • Keep a cool room – this might help you feel more comfortable when you begin to feel hot
  • Avoid eating spicy food – this can make you feel hotter and sweat more
  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine
  • MANAGE STRESS!

 

So take the time to work on things in your life that will help you get the sleep that you need – seek help if you need it.

Happy sleeping!

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About the Author
Cindy Willems

Cindy Willems

Cindy is the owner/creator or My Fit Over 50. She is a registered acupuncturist, certified Pilates instructor, holistic nutritionist and educator. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health and she believes that it is important to keep challenging the body and mind safely and efficiently as we age. Cindy also has a busy clinic called Women's Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.