How to Sleep Better During Menopause (Because, Good Lord, Why Is It So Difficult?)

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According to Healthline, the average age women begin menopause is 51 (but that isn’t true for everyone). You’re officially in menopause when you haven’t had a period for a full year. If you go ten or 11 months without your period, and then get it, you’re still not in menopause (and need to start the count over again). Be aware that even if you’re experiencing symptoms, it might not fully start for several years.

Among other symptoms like changes in mood, hot flashes and weight gain, menopause can make it harder to fall—and/or stay—asleep. Why? Per The National Institute on Aging, “hot flashes, especially night sweats, and changes in mood—depression in particular—can contribute to poor sleep.” Luckily, all hope is not lost; there are actually a number of steps you can take to combat menopause-related sleep troubles. From lowering your bedroom thermostat to trying to keep a sleep diary, here are five things to try when you’re struggling to fall—or stay—asleep.

A Beginner's Guide to Hot Flashes

how to sleep better during menopause: woman resting
Flashpop/getty images/Dasha Burobina/PureWow

1. Don’t Drink (Anything) Too Close to Bedtime

You know it’s important to stay hydrated. But if you’re waking up multiple times a night to pee, it’s time to set a curfew for your bladder. “As women get older, pelvic floor muscles weaken and vaginal tissue thins causing difficulty controlling urinary urges at night,” Dr. Joshua Tal, Sleep Advisor to Idle Group tells us. He recommends that women over forty stop drinking liquids about two hours before bedtime. While caffeine and alcohol can be especially disruptive to sleep, even water can cause middle-of-the-night wakeups that can disrupt your sleep cycles.

2. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Saturday and Sunday mornings might have been snooze-the-day-away free-for-alls when you were in college, but it’s wrecking your sleep schedule now. Try to work toward waking up and getting out of bed at the same time every day—regardless of when you have work—to get your sleep and wake times on track. Per Dr. Andrew Varga, M.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, “Much of it is about personal limit-setting, recognizing the environmental factors and personal habits that have the capacity to disrupt one’s sleep schedule, and trying to minimize the variance in daily sleep onset and offset time, particularly between weekend and weekday times.”

3. Turn the A.C. Up

Hey, you, with your bedroom temperature set for 74 degrees. The balmy atmosphere in your room might be messing with your slumber. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep, explained on Fresh Air, “Your body needs to drop its temperature to initiate sleep, and it's the reason it's always easier to fall asleep in a room that's too cold than too hot.” He recommends setting your thermostat between (yes) 65 and 68 degrees to get the best night of sleep. (If that sounds ridiculously freezing to you, he doesn’t mention anything about bundling up under a huge comforter and wearing flannel PJs.)

4. Try Melatonin

If you have chronic sleep issues, your first instinct might be to ask your doctor for a prescription sleep aid. But Walker notes that sleep aids don’t technically help you sleep. They are sedatives, so while you will spend the night sedated, it isn’t actually helping you achieve the rest you need. For older patients who have a weaker natural release of melatonin, Walker notes that taking melatonin supplements could help. While not technically a sleep aid, melatonin is a supplement that is designed to help you regulate your sleep’s timing. “There are a whole set of different chemicals and brain mechanisms that actually generate sleep and get you into sleep,” walker says. “Melatonin simply times when sleep is going to occur, not the generation of sleep itself.” Still, it’s worth a shot if you’ve felt your quality of sleep decline over the years.

5. Keep a Sleep Journal

Understanding what it is that keeps you awake at night—say, the tendency to reach toward your nightstand for your phone, midnight snacking or going for a run at 9 p.m.—is key to repairing this broken sleep cycle. Track your nocturnal habits and see what contributes to a good night’s sleep and what leads to hours of tossing and turning. Excommunicate the latter from your routine.

how to sleep better during menopause: woman resting
Getty Images/Dasha Burobina/PureWow

How to Sleep Better in Menopause from Women Who've Been There

1. Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

Dr. Somi Javaid, MD, founder and chief medical officer of HerMD finds it helpful to reduce her screentime before bed. “Watching television or using electronic devices before bedtime can interfere with your body’s ability to fall, and stay, asleep,” Dr. Javaid says. “To support quality sleep, limit the use of electronics in the hours leading up to bedtime.”

2. Trying Hormone Replacement Therapy

Jill Chmielewski, RN, a menopause educator and Morgan Adams, a women’s holistic sleep coach, both turned to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help improve their sleep.

“Several days a week, I was bothered by early morning wake ups (4 to 4:30 am). After taking progesterone for over two weeks, I’m having fewer early morning wake ups,” Adams recounts. “My hormone test revealed that my progesterone levels are low, so my doctor suggested the progesterone. Studies have shown that HRT can improve women’s sleep in menopause.”

“Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was hands down the most effective treatment for my perimenopausal and menopausal sleep issues,” Chmielewski adds. “Progesterone is our ‘calming hormone’ which promotes sleep and relaxation. Since progesterone levels begin to decline sometime between a woman's mid-30s to early 40s, she may experience increased sleepless nights as she ages. Progesterone replacement taken before bed helps sleep because it converts to a sedating neurosteroid called allopregnanolone or ALLO, which soothes the GABA receptors in the brain our calming neurotransmitter). Low or fluctuating estrogen levels are responsible for hot flashes and night sweats and for that middle of the night waking up with a racing mind that so many pausal women experience. Replacing estrogen keeps estrogen levels steadier, so there are fewer estrogen highs and lows, and she is no longer waking through the night.”

3. Getting That Vitamin D

“I also found that getting morning sunlight (or using a lightbox during the winter months) and finding micro-moments where I could get outside in the natural sunlight away from blue light (screens) helped improve my sleep,” Chmielewski shares. “Our 24-hour internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, is directly influenced by light and dark. When the circadian rhythm is aligned, we sleep well and tend to experience high-quality restorative sleep. Getting first-morning sunlight (about 20 minutes without wearing sunglasses) resets the circadian rhythm in the body. Bonus points if you can step away from screens and other blue light devices and spend more time in natural light throughout the day.”

4. Losing Weight and Exercising

For Dr. Stephanie M. Culver, M.D., FACOG, NCMP, a board-certified OB/GYN and co-founder of midlife women’s educational platform Menosplain, weight loss and exercise drastically contributed to better sleep. She ended up losing 10 percent of her bodyweight and started swimming multiple times a week.

“Weight gain and obesity are associated with obstructive sleep apnea and nighttime awakenings. Decreasing one’s weight has been shown to decrease obstructive sleep apnea and improve quality of sleep. Exercise has been positively associated with sleep quality, although the timeliness of intense exercise can be important for most and recommended to no later than an hour before bedtime,” Dr. Culver says.

5. Avoid Midnight Munchies

Dr. Culver also makes sure to eat no later than three hours before going to sleep. “When the stomach is full [at bedtime], there is more of a chance of stomach contents entering the esophagus and causing symptoms of reflux which can cause awakening,” she explains.

6. Practicing Yoga

Dr. Javaid enjoys practicing yoga, which she says is a well-documented habit supporting various health factors, including sleep. “In a national survey, respondents who practiced yoga reported improved sleep (55 percent). Respondents also reported reduced stress (85 percent), motivation to exercise more regularly (60 percent) and motivation to eat healthier (40 percent).”

how to sleep better during menopause: oil, eye mask, noise machine, drink
Dasha Burobina/The Nue Co./Kin/The Good Side/Casper

4 Products That Could Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep

magnesium oil the nue
The Nue Co.

1. The Nue Company Magnesium Ease

Magnesium oil is oil that’s infused with micro-particles of flaked mineral magnesium, a bio-nutrient with widespread undiagnosed deficiencies in the population. According to a 2018 study in the medical journal Open Heart, the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency. That’s because magnesium is found in every cell in your body, and it plays a role in brain function, bowel movement, muscle movement, energy and sleep, according to sports nutritionist Shawn Wells. This magnesium blend from The Nue Company contains lavender and arnica oil for a fabulously soothing smell and muscle ache-soothing abilities.

how to sleep better during menopause sleep mask1

2. Good Side Silk Sleep Mask

Let’s say you wake up at 6:30 a.m., two hours before your alarm. You want to go back to sleep so badly, but your room is brighter than the sun and it’s keeping you from returning to slumber. That’s no issue with one of Good Side’s gorgeously soft silk sleep masks, which block out light without feeling constricting on your face.

sleep routine kin euphorics
Kin Euphorics

3. Kin Euphorics Dream Light

Kin Euphorics’s “mood-defining drinks” are made to make you feel good, buzzy vibes without alcohol. Dream Light, meant to be sipped before sleep, contains a blend of adaptogens (like reishi mushrooms), botanics (like oak, clove and ginger) and nootropics (like melatonin and L-theanine), to promote relaxation before bedtime, less stress throughout the night and a clearer, more restorative waking experience. Because it’s considered an herbal supplement, Dream Light isn’t regulated by the FDA, so we don’t know if nootropics or adaptogens really work. But, in our experience, drinking this intensely herbal-tasting bevvy before bed is a soothing way to drift into a restful sleep. Note: Drink this two hours before bedtime to feel the calming effects without risking an unnecessary middle-of-the-night bathroom break.

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4. Casper Glow Light

Casper created this sleep lamp to help you wind down, fall asleep and wake more easily. The warm light is designed to help you relax as you get ready for bed, then slowly dims to let you know it’s time for sleep. In the morning, it gradually fills the room with soft light to let your body know it’s time to wake up.

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