Sleep disturbances

This refers to insomnia and other similar forms of sleep disruption which often occur as a result of night sweats and other menopause symptoms.

If you have experienced sleep problems in the past or are not a good sleeper then the menopause will exacerbate this problem.

But if you have always managed a good night’s sleep it can come as a bit of a shock to find that your sleep pattern is broken due to the various symptoms of the menopause.

What are sleep disturbances?

The main one is insomnia. This is a common symptom of the menopause and is often caused by night sweats, heart palpitations and other associated symptoms.

But sleep patterns can be disturbed in many other ways which include caffeine intake, stress and anxiety.

This is discussed in more detail further on in this section.

How common are sleep disturbances?

Not every woman who goes through the menopause will experience sleep disturbances but many do and find it one of the most difficult aspects of the menopause to deal with.

The main problem with this is that they lead to tiredness and mood swings the following day which can build up if the pattern of sleep disturbances continues over a period of time.

It also leads to a lack of concentration and a poor memory which is mainly due to tiredness.

Consider this: it is easy to feel low and lack energy and focus if you have not had a good night’s sleep. If you toss and turn in the night then you will find that you are unable to think clearly the next day or to understand instructions.

Many people find that they become irritable or a tendency towards anger if they have had a poor night’s sleep.

But imagine what this is like for a woman going through the menopause who experiences a poor night’s sleep over a long period of time.

The associated sleep deprivation builds up during this time which worsens other menopausal symptoms and can lead to other problems in the long term.

Causes of sleep disturbances

Sleep disturbances can be caused by numerous factors but as we are focussing upon the menopause they occur as a result of the following symptoms:

  • Night sweats
  • Hot flushes
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Depression

Stress and worry about the future; about changes at work or within the family, e.g. children leaving home can cause sleep problems.

The symptoms of the menopause are a result of the many biological changes taking place. These do include sleep disturbances but often it is thought of the menopause itself and the associated changes which cause anxiety, stress and sleep problems.

Anxiety about the menopause and sleep problems

The menopause is a time when you have to adjust to a series of changes within your life which cause a great deal of worry and anxiety.

Many women view this as a sign of growing old and consequently view this in a negative manner with all the accompanying baggage that brings. In their eyes it means that they are less attractive than before which causes a drop in libido and a lack of interest in any sexual activity.

Confidence and self-esteem drop and this combined with the physical and emotional symptoms of the menopause result in a broken sleep pattern.

Unfortunately what often happens is that many women dread the thought of the menopause and the resultant stress this causes leads to sleep disturbances. It is viewed as a difficult and stressful stage of life and as such many women become anxious as the menopause approaches.

This causes difficulties in sleeping even before ‘the change’has started.

It is a good idea to talk to others who have experienced the menopause to see if there are any coping strategies you can adopt which will make things a bit easier sleep-wise.

A few lifestyle changes can help as can accepting that sleep disturbances are a normal part of the transition which will ease once your hormone levels settle down.

Treating sleep disturbances

Sleep disturbances are a normal part of the menopause but this doesn’t always make them any easier to deal with.

But there are few measures you can take to ensure that you reduce the risk of insomnia or other similar problems.

Most of us have experienced a bad night’s sleep at some point in our lives but can manage to a certain extent the following day. The problem arises when you have several of these night’s which has a knock on effect the next day and those following that.

Sleep problems are one of several symptoms of the menopause so it may be a better to accept that sleep deprivation will occur during this change but will resolve itself in time.

So, if you find that you are unable to drop off to sleep then think about ways of using these hours sensibly. For example, stay up to watch a film, have a long, relaxing bath or read a book.

These are all good ways of using those hours as well as helping you to relax and wind down before you sleep.

Avoid caffeine and/or alcohol late on in the evening, stay hydrated and try and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Drink herbal teas such as camomile tea and ensure that your bedroom is dark and at a cool temperature.

If you want to know more about ways in which you can ease the symptoms of the menopause then visit our menopause self help section.

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