Menopause and Insomnia: Root Causes and Potential Treatments

Menopause is the natural process the human body goes through when menstruation stops, and estrogen and progesterone levels decrease. But despite being a process all women go through eventually, menopause can create a host of unpleasant and hard-to-manage symptoms.

One of the most troubling side effects of menopause is insomnia. While not everyone will experience extreme sleep disturbances during their menopausal phase, as many as 61% of women have reported experiencing some type of sleep issue during this part of their life [1].

Here, we will dive deeper into why exactly insomnia and sleep disturbances are so common during menopause and what you can do to manage them.

Signs of Insomnia

According to the Sleep Foundation, “insomnia describes a chronic difficulty falling or staying asleep that occurs more than three nights a week” [2]. Insomnia can be brought on by a wide variety of factors, but an increased percentage of women going through menopause report experiencing insomnia when compared to the general population.

Insomnia-related sleep deprivation can lead to some of the following symptoms:

  • anxiousness and irritability
  • impaired memory
  • difficulty focusing
  • headaches
  • muscle soreness and fatigue

What Causes Insomnia During Menopause?

Menopause-related insomnia and other sleep issues can be caused by a range of physical, emotional, and environmental factors. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to the shifting balance of our hormones. When the body decreases its production of estrogen and progesterone, many of the body’s systems undergo significant changes, which can lead to disturbances in our sleep patterns [3].

Let’s look at a few of the main reasons insomnia is so common during menopause.

Hot Flashes and Sweating

One of the most commonly reported reasons for insomnia and poor sleep during menopause is increased body temperature, which can manifest in hot flashes and sweating [4]. Often experienced at night, hot flashes and excessive sweating can understandably make it much more difficult to sleep.

But why does menopause make us so hot? It’s simple: estrogen helps the body regulate its internal temperature, especially at night [5]. So, when our estrogen levels decrease, our body’s ability to maintain a consistently comfortable temperature unfortunately goes along with it.

If you’re struggling to sleep due to hot flashes and/or night sweats, try out these simple techniques for staying cool throughout the night:

  • Wear lightweight, breathable clothing to bed made of natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, or silk
  • Make sure your sleeping area is kept cool and well ventilated
  • Avoid eating spicy or inflammatory foods, especially right before bed
  • If you have any blood sugar issues, avoid foods that contain sugar, especially right before bed, as sugar can increase body temperature for those with hyper- or hypoglycemia

For more information on hot flashes management, please read our blog 

https://www.reisheherbal.com/herbal-supplements-for-hot-flashes/

Mood Changes and Depression

Another inevitable reality of a shifting hormone balance is the effect it has on our moods and emotions. As a result of waning estrogen and progesterone levels, many people going through perimenopause and menopause experience more rapid mood changes, lower overall mood, increased anxiety, and even depression [6].

These mood changes and hormone-related impacts to our mental health can have a huge effect on the quality of our sleep. If you’ve ever tried sleeping while feeling particularly anxious or depressed, then you’re probably familiar with why and how lower mood can negatively impact the body’s ability to enter a restful state.

Hormonal Changes

It may seem obvious by now, but the third reason why insomnia and sleep disturbances are so common during menopause is the hormones our body loses actually play a key role in helping us regulate our sleep cycles. According to the Sleep Foundation, “estrogen plays a role in the metabolism of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that affect our sleep-wake cycle” [7]. In other words, the less estrogen our body has access to, the more difficult it is for our brains to maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Life Changes

While the most obvious causes of insomnia during menopause are physical, it’s also possible that external factors could contribute to sleep difficulties and disturbances during this phase of life. 

Menopause typically sets in at around age 50, which is a time when most people experience other major life changes as well. These changes can include:

  • empty nesting
  • caring for aging parents
  • grieving lost loved ones
  • concerns related to aging
  • other health concerns

Because these kinds of life changes induce a large amount of stress, it’s understandable that some people might struggle with sleep during this phase of life. As we said before, anxiety and depression can severely decrease the quality of our sleep, but stress in general can also disrupt the hormones responsible for helping us get to sleep and stay asleep through the night.

In fact, even for women who haven’t yet reached perimenopause or menopause, elevated levels of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress) can severely deplete the body’s ability to produce and maintain progesterone, leading to hormone imbalances that can disrupt mood as well as sleep. 

Management and Treatment of Insomnia During Menopause

Deciding how to manage and treat insomnia or other sleep disturbances during menopause can be a delicate process. There are a wide range of strategies and treatments available, figuring out which one is best for you might take some time.

First, we will go over the more conventional treatment methods before exploring some natural alternatives.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

The most common treatment method for menopause-related side effects is hormone-replacement therapy (commonly known as HRT). True to its name, HRT is the process of “replacing” the lost hormones in our bodies by taking them via pill, patch, or cream. HRT typically replaces both estrogen and progesterone, but for some patients, doctors may prescribe estrogen-replacement therapy (or ERT) instead, which only replaces estrogen.

While HRT is known for being quite effective in treating vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and sweating [8], long-term hormone replacement is not recommended, especially for people who have experienced blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, or certain types of cancer [9]. Even when it is prescribed, HRT should always be recommended at the lowest-possible dose and for limited time periods.

Although it’s not typically discussed as hormone replacement therapy, one of the most popular over-the-counter remedies for anyone experiencing difficulty sleeping is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body when we’re in complete darkness. By taking melatonin orally before bed, we can sometimes help our bodies transition more easily into a sleep-ready state. However, melatonin should not be taken over the long term, as this can decrease the brain’s ability to produce melatonin naturally. This can ultimately lead to increased sleep problems over time.

Medications

Although it seems like an extreme approach, another common treatment prescribed for menopausal insomnia is antidepressant medication. Medications such as Prozac, Paxil, and Effexor have been shown to positively impact sleep quality for menopausal patients [10]. These medications can be effective for patients who are experiencing anxiety and depression as part of their transition through menopause.

However, sleep management is not the intended use for antidepressants, so it’s a good idea to look into other methods first. Antidepressant medications often come with a laundry list of potential negative side effects, some of which are very serious.

Some patients also choose to utilize sleeping pills to manage insomnia, but this is considered an extreme method and should not be relied on over a long period of time. Sleeping pills are known to become addictive and pose the risk of overdose which can be fatal.

Managing Menopausal Insomnia Naturally

For many people, HRT and prescription medications simply don’t feel like the right answer for managing sleep difficulties during menopause. Especially when your body is already struggling to adapt to a new hormonal terrain, it makes sense that you might not want to further interrupt your body’s natural processes.

The good news is that there are plenty of methods for managing hormone imbalance and sleep disturbance during menopause that are entirely natural.

Lifestyle Strategies

For mild to moderate sleep disturbances during menopause, consider applying the following principles to help improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule with a consistent bedtime
  • Avoid using electronic devices right before bed
  • Reserve your sleeping space for sleep only and refrain from engaging in other activities in bed
  • Wear lightweight, breathable clothing to bed made of natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, or silk
  • Make sure your sleeping area is kept cool and well ventilated
  • Avoid eating spicy or inflammatory foods, especially right before bed
  • If you have any blood sugar issues, avoid foods that contain sugar, especially right before bed, as sugar can increase body temperature for those with hyper- or hypoglycemia
  • Exercise regularly but not right before bed
  • Avoid excess caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine, especially right before bed
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Be sure to empty your bladder right before bed

Therapy

Therapy can also be an effective tool for managing insomnia and other menopause-related symptoms by helping patients reduce anxiety, depression, and other mood-related symptoms.

According to the National Institute on Aging, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be especially effective, as it offers a solutions-based approach to therapy and can help patients uncover underlying issues and create a holistic plan for improving overall mental health and quality of life [11].

Taking up a meditation practice can also be similarly helpful in this way by promoting overall well-being throughout the brain and body.

Herbal and Alternative Remedies

Lastly, we’ll look at a few herbal remedies for managing insomnia, which can be effective and helpful for those wanting to boost their natural approach to health and healing.

Some herbal remedies that have been shown to have possible hormone-balancing effects on the body during menopause include [12]:

  • Black cohosh
  • Red clover
  • Ginseng

Other herbal remedies known for promoting deep and restful sleep include:

  • Valerian
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • ReiSHE™

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ReiSHE™ is a novel herbal formulation created by Dr. Young Joo Lee to specifically address most troublesome symptoms of menopause. Dr. Lee meticulously perfected this product using five carefully selected herbal ingredients to meet her own highest standards.

Unlike traditional hormone replacement therapies, ReiSHE™ does not contain estrogen. Rather, it contains a unique blend of herbs that can help reduce the symptoms of menopause and improve overall wellbeing. When taken as directed, results can be felt within days, with some patients even reporting noticeable results within just one day. With the help of ReiSHE™, people experience more restful sleep, enhanced mental focus during waking hours, and fewer hot flashes and night sweats.

Here is what Dr. Lee has to say about ReiSHE™:

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, I wanted to find a supplement that could strengthen immune defense and reduce risk of infection. Reishi mushrooms came to mind as a plant well known for its immune-boosting properties across Asia. Searching for Reishi supplements in the market, however, I didn’t know which sources to trust. So, I began to brew my own Reishi tea for myself and my family. Many of us work in healthcare, and we hoped the tea would prevent us from falling sick. After a few days of drinking Reishi tea, my sister noted the tea’s positive effects on her longstanding insomnia. For the first time in over a decade, she was able to fall asleep without the help of prescription medications. 

To this day, my sister and I continue to take ReiSHE™ every night. We have also shared our product with our family and friends who can vouch for its safety and effectiveness. Please visit our Testimonials page to read the reviews.

ReiSHE™ is made with pharmaceutical grade standardized herbal extracts from world renowned Sun Ten Laboratories. Each batch of ReiSHE™ is tested for harmful chemicals and microorganisms. The certificates of safety can be found on our Quality page. 

Please visit reisheherbal.com for more information and to learn how ReiSHE™ could help you sleep better, manage menopausal symptoms, and live a healthier life.

References:

  1. Johnson, T. C. (WebMD), 2022. Sleep and Menopause.
  2. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.
  3. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.
  4. Johnson, T. C. (WebMD), 2022. Sleep and Menopause.
  5. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.
  6. National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health), 2021. Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?
  7. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.
  8. Johnson, T. C. (WebMD), 2022. Sleep and Menopause.
  9. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.
  10. Johnson, T. C. (WebMD), 2022. Sleep and Menopause.
  11. National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health), 2021. Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?
  12. Pacheco, D. and Callender, E. (Sleep Foundation), 2022. Menopause and Sleep.

Source links:

-WebMD https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/sleep-disorders-sleep-menopause

-National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health) https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sleep-problems-and-menopause-what-can-i-do

-Sleep Foundation https://www.sleepfoundation.org/women-sleep/menopause-and-sleep

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