Why Sleep Disruption Is Common in the Menopausal Transition and How to Navigate Through It

When women reach a certain age, we often find ourselves tossing and turning in the middle and night for sleep to set in. This is very common during the menopausal stage or the years leading up to it.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, reports of women experiencing sleep problems tend to arise at this stage. Many conditions tend to cause sleep problems. Some of these include mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep is an essential requirement we need to experience great health, be it physical or mental health. If you ever encounter such problems with your sleep, you should make sleep your number one priority in life.

Why Is Sleep Essential for Your Health?

image via Flickr

Studies have shown that you should at least get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. We are all individualistic, some may need more or less sleep but people who sleep for less than six hours are at a much higher risk of getting heart disease, diabetes, and experience cognitive decline.

According to Dr. Manson, a professor at the women’s health of Medical School says, “A lack of restful sleep also makes it more likely that a person will gain weight and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”  “It’s also been recently discovered that sleep is essential for avoiding or reducing the risk of cognitive decline.”

When you are sleeping, your brain undergoes a cleaning process that involves your body getting rid of waste. This is known as the glymphatic system. The glymphatic system operates by doing a rinse cycle in the brain using a clear fluid found in the brain and spine (cerebrospinal fluid).

Scientists believe that this fluid flows more freely through the brain during at night when it’s at rest. One of the most important functions performed is washing away a harmful protein called beta-amyloid.

What Is Beta-amyloid and Why Is It Harmful to the Brain?

Beta-amyloid is a brain protein, that accumulates in the brain and causes harm by disrupting communication between brain cells and even kill them. The accumulation of this protein in the brain forms plaques that are the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Several pieces of evidence prove these statements. One is Scientists genetically developed mice to carry genetic mutations that have deposits of beta-amyloid. The mice eventually developed amyloid plaques and had difficulty remembering their way through the mazes. The mice also developed symptoms that mimic human Alzheimer’s.

The Most Common Menopausal Sleep Disruptors

For you to find a proper solution to navigate through these sleep disruptors as you are transitioning to menopause, it is important to know the source and the causes.

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Women are more prone to experiencing obstructive sleep apnea as they age. This is a sleep-related condition where airflow is either decreased or halted despite one breathing. This happens when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway.

This often causes poor sleep patterns and leads to one experiencing exhaustion during the day.

Scientists have reasoned that the condition is more prominent with women who age. This is because weight gain is a common risk factor for obstructive apnea and weight gain is usually accompanied by the menopausal stage.

There is currently an ongoing extensive study that is looking at how sleep apnea can result in low blood oxygen levels. Dr. Manson says “The study will provide valuable new objective data from small monitors that participants wear at night to assess oxygen levels.”

2. Hot Flashes

Having sleepless nights because of menopause is normally accompanied by hot flashes. Hot flashes are unpleasant sensations of severe heat that can occur during the day or night. It usually occurs either during the months leading up to menopause or after.

The spikes in your body temperature are believed to be caused by the result of hormonal changes that happen in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which acts as your body’s thermostat.

3. Depression and Anxiety

Due to the constant shift of hormones that women experience as they are transitioning to menopause, it is believed that these hormonal changes trigger mood changes that can lead to depression, anxiety, or even panic attacks.

It is important to note that sleep interferences caused by hot flashes tend to affect mood stability. A woman is a giver, a nurturer, and a mother, these are demanding responsibilities that can add to daily stresses that can further contribute to these mood disorders. 

How to Improve Your Sleep

Your body is a self-healing machine that can run efficiently if you nurture it well. There are several ways you can improve your sleep and cope with all these changes that are happening to your body. You can Start by taking by making these improvements.

  • Adjust Your diet – You are what you eat! So, avoid indulging in heavy meals before bedtime and avoid eating spicy or acidic foods that can trigger hot flashes. Try Adjusting to a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule – Our brain functions well with a routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps our body have a steady rhythm. Note that it is important to seek help if you are experiencing hot flashes that are keeping you awake despite putting effort into sleeping. Your doctor can put you on hormonal treatments like estrogen if they are deemed safe for you or treatments that are not hormonal.
  • Avoid Caffeine – If you want to have sufficient sleep avoid drinking coffee in the evening hours. Coffee is a stimulant that can temporarily block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline levels too.
  • Shut off Electronics Before Bedtime – You should try avoiding using your electronics an hour before going to bed. Your electronics such as computers and smartphones emit blue light that suppresses melatonin. A hormone that helps your body prepare for sleep.
  • Exercise – Engaging in regular exercise helps in relieving anxiety and stress. It also improves circulation in your body promoting quality sleep and relaxation. Try to workout earlier during the day because late workouts can increase energy levels make falling asleep quite difficult.
  • Avoid Stress – There is no bulletproof guarantee against stress but there are many ways you can handle or manage it. Many situations can trigger stress but you can avoid Emotional stress by sorting out your problems earlier in the day. Don’t wait until bedtime to think about your problems and prolong your problems.

When Should I Seek help?

Arranging an appointment with your doctor is necessary if you suspect that you may have obstructive sleep apnea or you frequently feel tired when you wake up and experience sleepiness throughout the day. Your doctor will give you an effective treatment. It is vital to think about your health long-term and take it very seriously. Seek help if you feel that you may need it.

Leave a Reply