How to Overcome Menopause-Related Sleep Troubles for a Better Night’s Rest
Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, occurring at the average age of 51 years old. While it’s a normal transition, menopause can be accompanied by a range of symptoms that can disrupt mood and sleep. In fact, up to 61% of women report experiencing sleep disturbances during menopause. But you don’t merely have to suffer through these sleepless nights – your doctor can help you find solutions to menopause-related sleep troubles.
Dr. Megan McQuarrie is a primary care physician with Shore Physicians Group’s Ocean City office who is passionate about helping her patients manage menopause symptoms for a better quality of life. In this article, she shares solutions for women who are struggling during this transition.
How Menopause Affects Sleep
During menopause, the body undergoes significant hormonal changes that can affect sleep.
“Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, all of which can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep,” says Dr. McQuarrie. “Additionally, menopause can bring about changes in sleep architecture, the natural pattern of sleep stages that occur throughout the night. Women going through menopause may experience more light sleep and less deep sleep, which can leave them feeling less rested in the morning.”
When the natural sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, cortisol levels rise. This change in hormone levels leads to significant symptoms throughout the day, such as irritability and mood swings and thereby affects sleep long-term.
Solutions and Treatments
While menopause can be challenging, there are several strategies that women can use to improve their sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances. Here are some that Dr. McQuarrie recommends:
Making healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving sleep during menopause. These include:
- Regular exercise: Exercise can help regulate hormone levels and improve sleep quality. Dr. McQuarrie says, “Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. A few examples include brisk walking, gardening, and doubles tennis.”
- Healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet can help regulate hormone levels and reduce symptoms of menopause. “I recommend avoiding spicy or acidic foods that can trigger hot flashes,” says Dr. McQuarrie.
- Stress reduction: Stress can exacerbate menopause symptoms, so finding ways to manage stress is important. Dr. McQuarrie suggests women try practices such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. You can find free videos and resources online to guide you through these practices.
- Sleep hygiene: Good sleep hygiene practices can help promote better sleep. Try creating a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding screens before bed, and establishing a regular sleep schedule.
In some cases, Dr. McQuarrie may recommend medical treatments to manage menopause symptoms and improve sleep. These can include:
- Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy can help regulate hormone levels and reduce symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
- Medications: Dr. McQuarrie recommends starting with melatonin supplements, because it is the most natural and safe medication to improve sleep. However, some patients may benefit from low-dose antidepressants and nerve pain medications to improve sleep, reduce hot flashes and stabilize mood.
- Vaginal estrogen: Vaginal estrogen can help alleviate vaginal dryness and discomfort, and improve lower urinary tract symptoms, which can lead to a more restful sleep.
Menopause is a natural part of life, but it can be accompanied by sleep disturbances that can affect overall health and well-being. By making healthy lifestyle changes and seeking medical treatment when necessary, women can improve sleep quality and reduce the impact of menopause on their lives. It is important to talk to your doctor about symptoms you are experiencing so they can help you better manage it, and to rule out other causes of disturbed sleep, mood and vaginal symptoms.
Dr. Megan McQuarrie is a primary care provider who practices at Shore Physicians Group’s Ocean City office located at 1645 Haven Avenue, Suite C. She is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has an additional Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine (CAQSM). To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 609-399-6263.