If night sweats and day sweats aren’t enough to ruin a normal day, now your clothes seem to be shrinking a bit. At least that’s what you keep telling yourself. Now the knockout punch comes; you begin to realize how menopause can affect your sleep schedule.
Women who have never had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep find that suddenly their rest is disturbed, or they can’t sleep at all. So, what does it all mean, and should you be concerned?
From The “Curse” To Menopause
Menstruation has been dubbed the “curse” for a long time. Premenstrual mood swings and raging hormones are the norm for young women. Just when women think they are free from this ritual, things get turned upside down.
Menopause can last from 3 to 10 years and it is a time of major change in a woman’s life.
The ovaries control the menstrual cycle, but about one year before a woman’s last cycle, known as perimenopause, the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone.
In addition to these hormonal changes, women also experience physical and emotional transitions.
Elusive Sleep And Other Changes
Menopause was once commonly referred to as “change of life.” That simple description seems apropos based on all the emotional and hormonal changes a women experiences during this time. It is worth recognizing that sleep issues are not solely the result of menopause. Women of middle age are living with normal stress and increasing responsibilities which can also be a part of sleep difficulty.
As the hormones diminish, their benefits do as well.
Prior to menopause, estrogen has enhanced sex drive, energy levels, cognitive skills and mood. It helps the body use serotonin to aid in falling asleep quickly, staying asleep, and experiencing a higher quality of sleep. As it decreases during menopause, lack of estrogen leads to weight gain and fatigue, it affects concentration and mood, and, in addition, produces anxiety and sleep disruption.
Progesterone is a sleep producing hormone and it helps to keep us calm and relaxed. As these levels decrease, anxiety and restlessness increase.
Testosterone helps boost a woman’s sex drive prior to menopause. It contributes to energy levels and bone mass. Due to both aging and menopause, testosterone levels will fluctuate and are reduced resulting in sleep disruption.
Not all women have the same sleep issues at the same time during menopause, nor are they as severe, and some women’s sleep issues resolve post menopause.
When To Be Concerned
If your sleep schedule continues to be disrupted, or reaches the level where falls and accidents become frequent, it may be time to seek help. Forgetfulness, difficulty paying attention, severe anxiety, and even sleep apnea can be a result of insomnia and a disrupted sleep pattern.