14 Ways to Get Better Sleep During Menopauseby Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer
Do not fear menopause. This time of life can be liberating thanks to the end of your menstrual cycles. But unfortunately, some women experience night sweats and hot flashes during this time, which can persist for years, along with weight gain and sleep difficulties. The night sweats can drench your sheets, making you miserable and interfere with sleep, and not sleeping in general can affect daily quality of life. Here are some tips and products to help you get a good night’s rest.
What’s Causing Your Sleep Issues During Menopause?
Your ovaries have stopped producing estrogen and progesterone. The loss of these hormones can produce hot flashes and the night sweats. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 61 percent of menopausal women struggle with sleep issues. Hormone therapy (HT) is currently recommended for severe hot flashes or night sweats that interfere with quality of life (and sleep). HT should be used for the shortest period of time in the early months of menopause and symptom onset.
What if I Can’t Use HT During Menopause or Don’t Want to?
You may want to avoid HT, or you may have a family health history or conditions that negate its use. In this case, certain low-dose antidepressants can help to limit hot flashes and night sweats as well. The antiseizure medication gabapentin and blood pressure medication clonidine can also help to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
Other Sleep Issues During Menopause
In addition to having hot flashes and night sweats, women in menopause may experience mood disorders, anxiety, or depression. These can contribute to sleep difficulties. Snoring is more common and severe in post-menopausal women as well, and it may be a sign of sleep apnea. If mental health issues are interfering with sleep, consult with a health professional. If you suspect sleep apnea, you may need an at-home or in-lab sleep study and, if diagnosed, appropriate treatment so you sleep better.
Let’s Talk Protein During Menopause
Proteins — eggs, almonds, Greek yogurt, very lean cuts of meat, lentils and beans, high protein breads and pastas — support optimal hormone levels. Go low fat in menopause. Omega-3 fatty acids help to limit inflammation, which can be elevated in menopause and fuel hot flashes. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fishes like salmon and mackerel, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans, sardines, chia seeds, and flaxseed. Avoid weight gain as much as possible, as it can add to sleep issues like risk of sleep apnea.
Phytoestrogens, Menopause, and Sleep Disruptions
Phytoestrogens are compounds found in certain plant-based foods that have been shown to act like estrogen in some ways. Phytoestrogens in soy foods (tofu, edamame, soymilk) may help to limit hot flashes and night sweats. Most of the research on Asian communities show that phytoestrogens need to be consumed from a very young age to get their benefits in menopause. Still, three servings a day of unprocessed soy foods may help to reduce these sleep disruptions.
Exercise and Weight Management Are Key During Menopause
Having excess fat can increase night sweats and hot flashes and make sleep less comfortable. Therefore, it’s important to exercise to limit weight gain. Exercise early in the day can help you to sleep more deeply. Studies show that sleep is enhanced by a regular exercise habit. Exercise can also, in some people, mute hunger, among other benefits. It also helps to support heart health, which is crucial during menopause. Most importantly, exercise can act as a non-pharmacologic aid to sleep.
Know the Basics of Sleep Hygiene
These sleep hygiene habits help support deep sleep: Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. Avoid stimulants like coffee and nicotine close to bedtime. Exercise daily, but not close to bedtime. Steer clear of spicy foods, which can instigate hot flashes, and especially steer clear of them at night. Wear light, loose clothing or PJs at night. Keep cold water and a fan bedside and keep your bedroom cool. Wake up to natural light. Use bed for sex and sleep only. Lastly, disconnect from technology two hours before bedtime.
What About Natural Remedies?
Black cohosh, a plant that’s a member of the buttercup family, may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. However, research is not conclusive, and you should talk to your doctor before use.
Make Your Sleep Environment More Comfortable
Use blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, white noise machines or soft music, a humidifier in the winter, and other items to make your sleep environment more comfortable. You can also buy sheets and clothing that wick moisture away. Prepare the bed with thin layers of bed clothing so you can peel off layers at night. Finally, new pillow technology can limit body heat from your head.
Cooling Pillows, Mats, and Mattress Pads May Help You sleep Better
When it comes to pillow technology, using an ergonomic pillow can help you to feel more comfortable during sleep. For example, the FOMI Premium Thick Gel Cooling Sleeping Head Pillow offers cooling technology, memory foam, and orthopedic neck comfort. A cold therapy pillow mat made out of gel can offer a smooth surface with cooling technology and without the cost of a new pillow. Lastly, using a cooling mattress pad can make the whole surface of your bed feel cool.
Cooling Sheets Offer Further Nighttime Comfort
Look for 100 percent cotton or bamboo sheets, or sheets made from high-tech wicking fabrics. These fabrics, used in clothes too, help to draw sweat away from the body. The National Sleep Foundation recommends thread counts of 200 to 400. L.L. Bean percale sheets, Nine Space Viscose from Bamboo, and Threshold Performance Sheet Set are well-priced options. In the colder months, consider using a double sheet set and a lighter blanket so you don’t overheat at night.
Cooling Towels and Fans Provide Instant Relief
Keep a cooling towel submerged in water at your bedside and you’ll have an instant solution during a miserable night sweat. The Ergogyne Chill-Its Evaporative Cooling Bandana, Schutt Multi Sport Cooling Towel, or the Mission Enduracool Microfiber Cooling Towel are some well-priced options to consider. Additionally, you can try keeping a thermos of cold water bedside to drink from and small personal fans on the nightstand, or a large overhead fan can be a good investment.
Personal Thermostat: The Cooling Wave of the Future?
Students at MIT Embr Labs have created a smart wristband, now called Embr Wave, that makes the wearer feel cooler (or warmer) through contact with the skin on the wrist. The wrist is one of the most thermally sensitive parts of the body. People are also now familiar and comfortable with wrist technology, so a small portable wrist device is on trend. The technology is now in production at a startup and could be available commercially in the next couple of years.
There’s Help Available for Menopausal Sleep Problems
Menopause symptoms can wreak havoc on your ability to get quality sleep. But thankfully, these solutions are available to help you cope and get the rest you need. If you are still finding it difficult to get through the night due to sleep disruptions related to menopause, talk to your doctor.