Throughout perimenopause and into the menopause there’s a high chance your sleep quantity and quality will suffer. There are a number of reasons for this and in this post I'll take a look at why this happens and also talk about what strategies you can use to help yourself.
Night sweats and hot flushes are a common cause of sleep disturbance in those who are perimenopausal and menopausal. They happen due to drops in oestrogen, which causes other hormones to try and elevate oestrogen levels. This confuses the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that helps regulate body temperature).
Your body’s thermostat essentially becomes faulty and, during sleep, the sudden increase in temperature (when you’re already warm under the sheets) prompts a night sweat. Your blood vessels start to dilate to release heat, which triggers sweat glands to start secreting water.
Night sweats don’t just make you feel uncomfortable, they are almost always accompanied by a sense of anxiety and there is also evidence that those going through menopause have an increased likelihood of having breathing issues at night, such as sleep apnea. Yep, that'll be more reasons why you're waking and finding it hard to get back to sleep!
If you're menopausal you may well have already sought ways to manage this, whether it is HRT or other natural remedies. Medical advice is obviously beyond the scope of this article and so if you haven't already, speaking to your GP is a good first step.
Other links between this stage of life and sleep disturbance may just be correlational. For example, the average age of menopause is 52 years old, which is a time when many will start to experience empty nests and the increasing care that is needed for their parents. Such stresses can impact on sleep.
Similarly, magnesium deficiencies are common across both males and females in our population, but many symptoms of menopause are sometimes explained by magnesium deficiencies, For example, restless leg syndrome, hormone imbalances, anxiety and osteoporosis can all be due to low magnesium levels rather than the menopause.
A common remedy is to have a bath with Epsom salts. There are high amounts of magnesium in these salts, which become absorbed through the skin when having a bath for around 20 minutes. This could help reduce the likelihood of restless leg syndrome, hormone fluctuations and anxiety (magnesium helps to relax our muscles, which helps us to feel more relaxed psychologically, too). We are planning to introduce our own range of Epsom salts with lavender in the near future, so watch this space!
Other strategies include breathing techniques to help return to sleep following a night sweat. A great yoga breathing technique is known as 4-7-8 breathing, where you place the tip of your tongue up towards the front of your mouth (against your top row of teeth) and breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this a few times, and it helps to alter the level of oxygen in your body, making you feel much more relaxed and more likely to fall back to sleep.
Exercise, which we discussed in our last blog post, is also a strategy you can do during the day to try to reduce the likelihood of experiencing night sweats in the first place. Something as simple as taking a brisk, 20 minutes’ walk each day or engaging in Pilates or Yoga, could really make a difference to your hormone levels. Research has shown that women who participated in regular physical activity reported fewer, and less severe, night sweats.
Why not share your tips for managing your sleep whilst menopausal? Comment below and help other readers get a good night’s sleep.