26 Dec Is Insomnia Keeping You Awake?
Declining Estrogen & Every Woman’s Worst Nightmare
(if only she could sleep)
You wake up a little too early again. Your body is hanging onto last night’s sleep but your mind seems ready to start the day. You do a quick check in. Your sheets are slightly damp from that middle-of-the-night sweat session. Your body feels worn. There’s some fuzziness behind your eyes and a general lethargy. Yet your body buzzes with an undercurrent of anxiety. Looks like you’re waking up to just another normal Tuesday, or any other day of the week for that matter!
Insomnia sucks, and it’s one of those symptoms of menopause that is really, really difficult to manage. The harder you try to correct it, the worse it gets. And when you can’t get a proper night’s sleep, everything is difficult––relationships, work, time management, emotion regulation, etc, etc. Insomnia really is a nightmare, especially for women going through menopause.
But I have to wonder, with the prevalence of this sleep disorder in the adult population, does menopause actually cause insomnia, or do the hot flashes and night sweats attributed to fluctuating hormones just make for a restless night sleep… for a very long time?
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a loaded word. It’s used to describe a few nights of restless sleep as well as a severe, long-term sleep disorder. As a hypnotist, I have many people consult me with the issue of insomnia, particularly women going through this middle-age hormonal shift. So, I decided to investigate what insomnia actually is, its prevalence, and whether menopause actually causes it.
Healthline gives us this definition: “Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder. Individuals with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.”
According to the APA (American Psychological Association), 6-10% of adults have symptoms indicative of insomnia. However, these conditions must apply to receive a formal diagnosis:
- Sleep difficulties occur three nights a week for at least three months.
- Sleep difficulties disrupt daytime activities and functioning and create severe stress.
Does Menopause Cause Insomnia?
Contrary to what I initially believed, insomnia is a relatively common sleep disorder caused by a variety of inherent and environmental factors. Examples include: stress, trauma, pain, medication, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, and diabetes. However, I was hard-pressed to find literature that mentions a direct correlation between menopause and insomnia.
The pathway between menopause and insomnia looks a bit like this:
difficulty falling or staying asleep
If you’re recognizing this as a vicious circle, that’s exactly what it is. The stress of insomnia is indeed self-fulling––it perpetuates insomnia! Even women outside the menopausal phase of life, like during pregnancy, can experience the same symptoms. The lack of sleep or poor quality sleep makes us feel tired, moody, irritable, and unable to function optimally throughout the day. And the stronger our distress the less likely we are to fall asleep or sleep soundly. There’s also the issue of needing to pee in the night (another consequence of declining estrogen) that interrupts sleep.
There are three types of insomnia: transient (lasts less than a week), acute (short-term), and chronic (long-term). Many women going through menopause experience the acute and chronic types of insomnia as estrogen declines and causes those symptoms that disrupt sleep.
And to add insult to injury, Dr Heather Currie, in collaboration with the medical advisory council of the British Menopause Society, explains this:
“Menopausal progesterone decline may also be involved in sleep disturbance since progesterone has a sleep inducing effect by acting on brain pathways. Melatonin, another vital hormone for sleep, decreases with age. Secretion of melatonin is partly influenced by estrogen and progesterone and levels decrease during the perimenopause, often compounding the problem.”
The Menopausal Sleep Solution
So, what can we do, other than just accepting the inevitable discomforts of this transition?
According to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, going to bed at the same time each night gets your body into a predictable routine, helping to prepare it for sleep. Allowing yourself to wake naturally, without an alarm, can also help your body catch up on a sleep deficit.
And as you probably anticipated, stimulants like caffeine and alcohol tend to disrupt sleep, even if consumed hours before going to bed. Both substances may also create hormonal imbalances, so it’s best to avoid both or keep your consumption to a minimum.
Experts are also touting the benefits of meditation for inducing a relaxed state in the evening to help prepare the body for sleep. If meditation isn’t something you practice regularly, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to happen as a formal “clear your mind” practice sat cross legged. Rather, allowing your body to rest and receive healing can work wonders.
As a Reiki Master Practitioner and Master Hypnotist, I can help lead you into a state that allows your entire body to experience deep relaxation. All levels benefit––physical, emotional, and psychological. It’s important to note that such a state has powerful residual benefits––that peacefulness can suffuse the whole being, the whole day. With practice, this state becomes familiar and your body can access it more easily.
I’d love to help you get a better night’s sleep so you can sail through menopause with as little discomfort as possible. If you’re in the Clarington, Durham region, reach out to me today for a chat and we’ll see if hypnosis or Reiki can help you.