There are a range of sleep disruptions that may affect you during the perimenopause and menopause, including hot flushes, mood disorders, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep problems can be very disruptive, may lead to daytime drowsiness, and are often accompanied by anxiety or depression. They may also cause you to have trouble concentrating during the day.
Declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone can have a drastic impact on your sleep. Oestrogen is important for managing the level of magnesium in the body. This is a chemical which allows your muscles to relax, so low levels make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Falling levels of oestrogen are also the primary factor in causing night sweats, which can disrupt the sleep cycle. Progesterone helps you fall asleep and stay asleep; lowered levels make it more difficult to slip into deep sleep. Even if you do not wake during the night, your sleep isn’t as restful as it should be.
“Estimates are that between 40 and 60 per cent of women will be affected by insomnia, or another sleep disruption,” says Dr Heather Currie, founder of Menopause Matters and an associate specialist gynaecologist and obstetrician at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.
If you feel your sleep problems are related to flushes and sweats then take simple steps such as keeping your room well ventilated (try leaving a window or door open at night) or using a fan in your bedroom.
Make sure you have a regular bedtime schedule, which should include going to bed at the same time every night. Avoid taking phones, or other technology into the bedroom, and avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon.
“If your menopause symptoms continually keep you up at night, make an appointment to see your GP to discuss possible treatment options,” advises Dr Currie.
If you’d prefer to try and alternative treatment, the traditional herbal medicine Rhodiola rosea is often used for temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, including fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety. Other tips for improving sleep include spending plenty of time outdoors in the sunshine and sipping chamomile tea in the evening.