By Gina Roberts-Grey
Mood swings, hot flashes, weight fluctuations and other physical symptoms such as changes in hair, skin or nails are common and well-known symptoms of menopause.
Perhaps less well-known, however, are problems related to sleep.
From the time a woman enters peri-menopause—the phase before menopause—through post-menopause, many women report experiencing sleeping problems.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep than they were before menopause. Roughly 61 percent of post-menopausal women experience symptoms of insomnia.
Hot flashes—unexpected feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating—and night sweats—excessive sweating during the night—are common culprits to trouble sleeping.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment can help relieve menopausal symptoms. however, HRT is thought to increase a woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease and dementia. As a result, many doctors avoid prescribing HRT or may use them for brief periods of time at the lowest dose possible.
To alleviate menopause-related sleep disturbances without jeopardizing a woman’s health, some experts look to alternative approaches that include nutritional products and medications such supplements, estrogen creams and sleep-promoting drugs for insomnia.
These practices also have been shown to help lessen hot flashes to help women sleep better during menopause:
- Avoid large meals a minimum of three to four hours before bedtime. Also cut back on or avoid foods that are spicy or acidic, as they have been shown to trigger hot flashes for some women. And try foods and drinks rich in soy, such as milk blends or pasta fortified with soy, as they might minimize hot flashes.
- Stay away from nicotine, caffeine and alcohol three to four hours before bedtime.
- Wear lightweight clothes to bed to help keep you cool if you experience a hot flash or bout of “night sweats” during the night. And instead of having one or two heavy blankets or comforters on your bed, layer it with cotton sheets and several blankets to help you adjust to your body’s changing temperature and increase air circulation in bed.
- Remember, fatigue and chronic bouts of insomnia can lead to anxiety and/or feeling of depression. Talk to your physician or a behavioral health professional if you experience these symptoms or have trouble sleeping longer than a week or two.