March 17th marks World Sleep Day.
This year’s theme is ‘Sleep is Essential for Health’. Eating well, exercising often, and making healthy life choices is always important for our health. But sleep is also something that massively impacts one’s physical, emotional and mental health but is often underrated.
Sleep is a lot more than just ‘simply resting’. It is crucial for many reasons. When we sleep, we rest and recover. It gives time for the brain to consolidate memories and process information. We also conserve our energy by reducing all processes from metabolic rate to our core temperature. While we rest, our bodies also produce proteins for our immune system to fight inflammation and infection. Our hormones are also regulated.
At TWHC, we strive to educate our patients on women’s health. In this blog, we will be discussing menopause and sleep, hear some words from our own nurses and offer some tips for a better sleep.
The link between the menopause and sleep is not certain. However, it is thought that the decline of hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, associated with the menopause. It is these hormonal changes that may disrupt a woman’s sleeping pattern and sleep quality.
During the menopause, oestrogen levels decline. Oestrogen is a really important hormone. It’s effect on sleep is rather complicated due to its wide range of effects that can potentially affect sleep structure. The progesterone decline associated with the menopause may also be involved in sleep disturbances as progesterone has a sleep-inducing effect on brain pathways. Progesterone has both sedative and anxiolytic features.
How can the menopause affect my sleep?
Menopausal symptoms can make it difficult to have a good night’s sleep. Sleep difficulties often begin during menopausal transition and its prevalence can increase in post-menopausal life. BMS report that the number of women who experience sleep disturbances range from 28% to 63%! 
One of the most common symptoms that can affect sleep is night sweats. These are hot flushes at night where a woman’s body temperature suddenly increases and creates a heating sensation that can wake them up in the middle of the night.
The above can also be accompanied with sweating and tachycardia (fast heart rate). It can be difficult to get back to sleep once you’ve woken up. These are quite common as around three-quarters during perimenopause and post menopause experience it.
For women who undergo surgical menopause, their oestrogen levels drop rapidly. A study showed that those who have surgical menopause have worse sleep quality compared to women who have natural menopause .
Difficulty in falling asleep or not having good quality sleep can cause anxiety, irritability, and possibly depression.
We asked our Director of Patient Relations, Ros, for some tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been reported to improve sleep quality for women who have vasomotor symptoms . You can speak to one of our menopause nurses by booking here.
- Aromatherapy with lavender can help. Lavender is known to relieve stress, relax the body and improve sleep. It is one of the most popular essential oils worldwide and is gentle and safe for most people. It is usually can be applied to the temples, neck, and wrist to aid a good night’s sleep.
- Keep your room cool as opposed to warm. This helps you create a relaxing environment for a great night’s sleep.
- Make a rule – No phones before bedtime and cut back on usage before going to sleep.
- Exercise regularly as it can improve sleep quality and make sure you finish your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid large meals and spicy food! Eating these meals close to bedtime can cause discomfort and interfere with your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can also disrupt your sleep routine. Try to avoid consuming them for at least a few hours before bedtime.
It is important for women struggling with sleep during the menopause to speak to a healthcare professional. Treatments such as HRT, or lifestyle changes can help manage these symptoms to promote a much better and peaceful sleep.
1 Cho NY, Kim S, Nowakowski S, Shin C, Suh S. Sleep disturbance in women who undergo surgical menopause compared with women who experience natural menopause. Menopause. 2019 Apr;26(4):357-364.
2 Cintron D, Lipford M, Larrea-Mantilla L, Spencer-Bonilla G, Lloyd R, Gionfriddo MR, Gunjal S, Farrell AM, Miller VM, Murad MH. Efficacy of menopausal hormone therapy on sleep quality: systematic review and meta-analysis. Endocrine. 2017 Mar;55(3):702-711