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How does the Menopause affect Sleep?

Is any aspect of your life not affected by menopause? Hmmmm, probably not. And sleep is so foundational for our health, rest, repair and recovery that it seems a cruel thing for it to become such a struggle during menopause.

More than 60% of menopausal women report issues with insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And it's changes to our hormones that are the culprit.

As levels of progesterone drop during menopause, sleep disturbances increase (progesterone has a direct sedative effect).

Oestrogen also have a huge effect; it increase REM (rapid eye movement sleep), decreases how long it takes you to fall asleep and how many times you wake up in the night. Oestrogen also plays a role in regulating body temperature, which needs to drop for sleep to occur.

GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) surges also contribute to those awful hot flushes, and accompanying night sweats.

Some simple things we can do to help our sleep during the menopause:

1. Invest in basic sleep hygiene and habits.

The basics don't stop working; so giving yourself time away from screens, a set bedtime routine and time, a cool, dark environment etc, all still help us sleep. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine near bed (both have devastating effects on the quality of our sleep). Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex, and nothing else. I wrote a full blog post on this not long ago, and you can find it here.

I'd start with this first. Adding a supplement, like the ones suggested below, could just be sprinkling a poo with glitter if your sleep hygiene sucks. Sort out the fundamental needle-movers first: standardize before you optimize (and waste your money on expensive wee!).

If you want to turn up the heat (or down!!) in your efforts to improve your sleep, you could consider the following (please consult with your doctor before making any changes):

2. Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate

I know, I was like, cherry juice?!? when I first heard this. I did a quick google search and you can indeed find this as a supplement fairly easily. Tart cherry juice is high in the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that older women and men slept better and for longer when they drank it before bed. A cold glass 30 minutes before bed might be one way to try it.

3. Valerian root (tea or capsules)

Valerian root can help you fall asleep faster, as well as improving sleep quality. One study used 400mg of valerian extract and experienced these benefits compared to those taking the placebo.

4. Black cohosh

This is a member of the buttercup family and is a perennial plant native to North America. It has been widely studied as an alternative to menopausal hormone therapy for alleviating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, thus improving sleep quality.

Want to know more? I suggested you give the book 'ROAR' by Dr Stacey Sims a read, where all of these ideas for this blog post have come from (I do not claim these ideas as my own!!).

What's your experience of sleep and the menopause?

Is there anything that you've found to be helpful? I'd love to hear them. Share below!

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