Does Sleep Improve After Menopause?

Postmenopause Insomnia

My overnight reading has increased

“I am tired all day long. I go to bed tired, but I have trouble falling asleep. When I finally do fall asleep, I have trouble staying asleep. How I miss the days when I could sleep 9-12 hours like the dead.”

Could it be you saying this?

If you are expecting your sleep problems to vanish naturally when you reach menopause, you may be disappointed.

Before providing some details about postmenopause insomnia, it may be helpful to first discuss what happens to the levels of estrogen and progesterone during postmenopause. They affect your sleep even more during postmenopause, than during perimenopause.

Estrogen and progesterone levels during postmenopause

Perimenopause is characterized by fluctuating estrogen levels. In postmenopause, estrogen levels bottom out and stay low. About 6 months before menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly. Estrogen levels continue to fall during postmenopause, but not to zero. While your ovaries no longer produce estrogen, your body makes estrogen in other ways.

During postmenopause, progesterone levels fall more than estrogen levels. While your ovaries no longer produce progesterone, your adrenal glands produce a very small amount of progesterone.

How low levels of estrogen and progesterone affects postmenopause sleep

  • low levels of estrogen causes a decrease in the levels of the hormone serotonin, which is used to create melatonin – a sleep hormone
  • low levels of estrogen slows down the intake and secondary production of magnesium, a mineral that helps muscles to relax. Muscle relaxation helps you to fall asleep
  • low levels of estrogen is linked to sleep apnea, which disturbs breathing during the night and therefor disturbs sleep as well
  • low levels of estrogen is linked to hot flashes and night sweats, which disturbs sleep
  • low levels of progesterone inhibits sleep. Progesterone helps you to fall asleep and fall back to sleep when your sleep is disturbed

Another factor that affects sleep during perimenopause is aging. A Sleep Foundation study has found that as women age, increasing numbers of women encounter sleep difficulties. More females between the ages of 25 and 34 experience disturbed sleep than females between the ages of 18-24. More women between the ages of 35 and 44 experience sleep problems than women between the ages of 25 and 34. The postmenopausal age group is more prone to insomnia than all younger female age groups.

The Sleep Foundation reports that 61% of women experience postmenopause insomnia.

Treatment options for postmenopause insomnia

As low levels of estrogen and progesterone cause postmenopause insomnia, you may want to consider hormone therapy to raise your levels of these hormones.

Coventional HRT can reduce disturbed sleep during postmenopause, but it carries increased risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke. An alternative is BHRT – hormone therapy that uses bioidentical hormones. According to Dr John Lee, MD, the foremost authority on bioidentical hormones, bioidentical hormone therapy relieves menopause symptoms, including insomnia, without increasing the health risks mentioned above. It will relieve postmenopause insomnia.

If you are averse to hormone therapy of any kind, there are many other natural treatments that have been proven to reduce insomnia

  1. There is compelling evidence that exercise can improve your sleep during menopause. Exercise even improves the sleep quality of menopausal women who experience hot flashes at night
  2. Studies have also shown that valerian, a herbal remedy, has improved the quality of sleep for menopausal women
  3. The Mayo Clinic reports that “the weight of scientific evidence does suggest that melatonin decreases sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), increases the feeling of sleepiness, and may increase the duration of sleep”. You can increase your melatonin level by including certain foods in your regular diet or by taking a melatonin supplement
  4. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that sends signals between nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Low levels of serotonin cause insomnia. Eat foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B to help with serotonin production. These include most fruits and vegetables, almonds, beans, cheeses (particularly Cheddar and Swiss), chicken, eggs, fish (especially high-oil fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna), milk, peanuts, soy foods, turkey, and yoghurt. You can also increase the level of serotonin in your body by taking a serotonin supplement
  5. A review of 46 trials, covering 3,800 patients, has found that acupuncture is effective at relieving sleep disturbance
  6. Studies have found that yoga improves sleep quality and reduces feelings of fatigue. A new study conducted by MsFLASH has found yoga to be effective in reducing menopause insomnia. MsFLASH is an acronym for Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health

Postmenopause insomnia tends to get progressively worse without treatment. It is important to have and follow a treatment strategy for it.

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