While menopause is a normal part of aging that every woman will go through, there’s no denying that most of us would rather avoid some of the symptoms. One of these is insomnia – the chronic inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. In this post, we dig into the whys, whats, and hows of menopause insomnia.
In this article 📝
- Menopause and sleep: why does menopause cause insomnia?
- What are the symptoms of insomnia during menopause?
- How long does menopause insomnia last?
- How is menopause insomnia treated?
Menopause and sleep: why does menopause cause insomnia?
First things first: insomnia is pretty common during menopause. Over 60% of women experience it.
So if you’re reading this at 3.30 in the morning and you feel like the only person in the world who’s awake, you’re really not.
So, why does menopause insomnia happen?
Menopause has a nasty habit of disrupting your sleep cycle.
Some of the issues are caused by the hormonal changes themselves because your body rests best when everything is in balance.
Some also happen because of the side effects these hormonal changes cause. Still, others are connected to common medications.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
- Hormones: Falling levels of estrogen and progesterone are the biggest culprits here. Progesterone is known to promote quality sleep, so when there’s not so much of it in your body, it’s harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Hot flashes and night sweats: Two common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, and night sweats, can also disrupt sleep. What’s more, your adrenaline levels rise during a hot flash, and adrenaline is basically designed to make your body as awake as possible.
- Medication: Many women take medications and supplements at some point during menopause. While this can significantly improve many symptoms and make your life much easier, you may find that some medications can make insomnia worse. So, if you’ve started taking something new and you’re finding it hard to catch some Zs, you might have found the root of your sleep problem.
Is it menopause sleep problems — or something else?
Before you lay the blame for your lack of sleep squarely at the feet of menopause, it could be worth getting a general check-up to rule out other factors.
For example, as you get older, you’re more likely to develop sleep apnea — a condition where you don’t breathe regularly while you’re asleep.
This makes it almost impossible to get the deep, restful sleep your body needs.
What are the symptoms of insomnia during menopause?
If you find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or you wake up early and can’t get back to sleep, you may have insomnia.
You may also still feel sleepy when you wake up. Insomnia not only impacts your mood and energy levels, but it can also affect your general health.
Possible symptoms of menopause insomnia include:
- Struggling to fall asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Still feeling tired after a night’s sleep
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Feeling irritable, depressed, or anxious
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
- Memory lapses
- Feeling worried about sleep
If it’s becoming a challenge to get through the day, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
They may advise treating the hormonal causes of insomnia with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), other medications and supplements, or making specific lifestyle changes.
How long does menopause insomnia last?
And does insomnia improve after menopause?
If you’re experiencing menopause insomnia, you might be wondering how long you can expect it to last — and if it’ll improve after menopause is over.
But while it would be great to know exactly how long insomnia lasts during and after menopause, everyone has a different experience.
The first menopause symptoms (AKA the perimenopause) can appear as long as seven years before you have your last period, and some symptoms can continue even after the official menopause (when you haven’t had a period for a full 12 months).
The good news is, you have options for treating menopause sleep problems. Let’s take a look.
How is menopause insomnia treated?
The most common remedy for menopause sleep problems (and lots of other symptoms too) is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is designed to replace the hormones your body is no longer making.
You take estrogen as a pill, patch, or vaginal cream, sometimes along with progesterone.
HRT isn’t suitable for everyone, and if it’s not a good option for you, there are still alternatives.
Taking a low-dose selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is one option.
SSRIs are usually prescribed for your mental health, but they can also help reduce the frequency and effects of hot flashes and let you get some better quality sleep.
What else helps with menopause insomnia?
Alongside prescribed menopause insomnia remedies, other ways to help yourself sleep better include:
- Wearing light, loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or silk to bed
- Keeping your room cool and airy
- Going to bed at the same time each night
- Switching off screens an hour before bedtime and keeping your phone out of the bedroom
- Exercising during the day, ideally outside in the sun
- Reducing your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake, especially right before bed.
- Eating earlier in the evening
And, while it’s tempting to nap during the day if you have insomnia, it’s best to avoid it if you can.
Does melatonin help for menopause insomnia?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s made naturally in the body.
It helps regulate your night and day cycle (also known as your sleep-wake cycle).
A synthetic version is often prescribed as a short-term supplement to help with insomnia.
Some early research has shown that melatonin may help cool hot flashes (and therefore help fight insomnia), but more extensive studies are required before we know for sure.
You don’t have to figure out menopause alone
While it can have an unpleasant knock-on effect on the rest of your day, menopause insomnia can be treated successfully. Talk to your doctor to find out what options are available to you.
And if you’re currently dealing with the stigma of menopause alone, we want to help.
That’s why we launched Peanut Menopause — a safe space for women to come together to chat, learn, and share their experiences.
📚 More on menopause:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
What Happens During Menopause?
How to Deal With Menopause
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?
Menopause Fatigue: What to Know and What to Do
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
What You Need to Know About Menopause Mood Swings
Evening Primrose Oil & Menopause: What’s the Story?
What are the 34 Symptoms of Menopause?