How the menopause affects women’s sleep – and five tips to help you

Tired of sleepless nights and soaring temperatures? Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical, and psychological change for women – and all that change can wreak havoc on their sleep.

On average, around 12% of women experience sleep complaints. As women reach a perimenopausal and menopausal age, that number increases dramatically to 40%.

But how do we gain control over the hormonal changes effecting our sleep quality? We asked Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, physiologist and sleep expert with over 25 years’ experience, for her tips. 

Many women expect unwelcome symptoms such as hot flushes during the menopause but don’t anticipate disturbed sleep. Nearly half of people in the UK have trouble falling asleep at least one a month, with the biggest sufferers being women between the ages of 45 and 54.

The most common menopause symptom can be difficulty sleeping

As a woman transitions through the menopause, there are many kinds of symptoms she can experience, but the most common symptom can be difficulty sleeping. Night sweats, anxiety or stress can all contribute to poor sleep. Not only does this make falling asleep and staying asleep much harder to attain, but the aftereffects of disrupted sleep can exacerbate other menopausal symptoms the following day.

During the menopause and perimenopause, changing levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can really affect the nervous system making you more prone to insomnia. 

Lack of sleep, like many other menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms, such as irritability, stress, and lack of motivation can exacerbate this toll on mental wellbeing, creating a vicious cycle of worsening symptoms and further sleepless nights.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost. Dr Ramlakhan says that prioritising the value of sleep can enhance your physical and mental wellbeing throughout this natural phase in your life. Simple lifestyle changes and natural remedies can reduce the impact of these symptoms and help to improve the quality of sleep.

Five tips to hep you get a better night’s sleep during the menopause

To help women transitioning through the menopause and beyond, here are Dr Ramlakhan’s five tips for a calmer night’s sleep.

1) Maintain healthy blood sugar levels

Poor sleep can increase blood sugar levels which is already a higher risk for women of a menopausal age, a result of changing hormones. Start the day with a small breakfast of fruit and nuts and consider swapping dairy products for plant-based alternatives. (Find out what to eat to reduce your menopause symptoms here.)

2) Find your zen

Yoga is a great way to find your inner calm and helps to reduce stress levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases when you’re sleep deprived and makes it harder to drift off.

Yoga is a great way to maintain physical strength and muscle tone, and it incorporates controlled breathing which improves oxygenation and blood circulation throughout the body, reducing the physical effects of stress on the body and mind.

3) Go to bed 30 minutes earlier

The menopause can have a direct impact on a woman’s circadian rhythm which interrupts her sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed slightly earlier and aiming to be tucked in by 10pm at least three or four times a week is better for your sleep schedule, allowing your body to get into a sleep routine.

4) Try a herbal remedy

Valerian root has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy to improve sleep, enabling the body and mind to relax in the lead up to bedtime. Valerian root can promote a nourishing night’s sleep and reduce stress or anxiety before bedtime, helping to break the sleepless cycle.

5) Reduce caffeine intake

Drinking coffee, tea or sugary drinks has been linked to worsened hot flashes and night sweats which can further disrupt sleep. Try to reduce your caffeine consumption, especially in the afternoon and evenings. Don’t use caffeine as a substitute for food and ideally, have your caffeinated drink after you’ve eaten as this will minimise blood sugar surges and the production of cortisol.

Kalms Night One-A-Night is a traditional herbal remedy used to promote a refreshing and restful night’s sleep. Kalms Night One-A-Night helps to induce calmness and relaxation, without causing drowsiness the next day. 

Photo by Jordan Bauer