Women experience sleep problems more often than men , such as difficulty falling asleep or being sleepy during the day. This is probably due to hormonal changes that affect our sleep patterns. Sleep deprivation can also disrupt hormone levels, creating a vicious circle. During the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and especially around menopause, women are extra susceptible to sleep problems due to fluctuating hormone levels.
During menopause, hormonal changes have a major influence on our sleep rhythm. The loss of estrogen has a negative impact on the quality of our sleep . The decline in estrogen begins long before menopause actually begins. Hot flashes and irritability can occur in the decade before menopause begins. Researchers have found that women who have hot flashes during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause, when hormone levels drop) are also more likely to have sleep problems.
Once you reach menopause, which doctors usually define as at least a year without a period, your sleep will likely return to normal, along with the hot flashes. But perimenopausal women can have sleep problems for years.
What can you do about it?
Talk to your doctor first to determine the cause of your sleep problems. Lack of sleep can be caused by many factors and hormones are just one of the causes. If you can't sleep at all, your sleep problem may not be caused by menopause.
It is recommended to use mind-body techniques such as guided visualization, breathing exercises and yoga. These are very effective, have no side effects and are good for your brain. You can also take steps to reduce the effect of hot flashes . By keeping the temperature in the room lower and wearing layers of clothing that you can put on or take off , women are less disturbed by hot flashes and have a more restful sleep pattern.
Pregnant pauses in sleep
Women often joke that the sleep problems they have during pregnancy only prepare them for motherhood, when they will wake up countless times during the night. But sleepless nights during pregnancy and in the postpartum period can be very serious. Too little sleep can harm both mother and baby, making you irritable and more susceptible to illness. It is difficult to determine exactly how many of the sleep problems during pregnancy are directly due to hormonal changes. Many other things can also prevent you from sleeping well: the constant need to urinate and a growing belly. Women who have a lot of sleep disruptions during pregnancy are more vulnerable to postpartum depression. Here are some tips for a good night's sleep during pregnancy:
• Don't exercise within an hour or two before going to bed.
• Drink something soothing in the evening , such as a calming tea.
• Keep the bedroom temperature comfortable, perhaps slightly lower than normal.
• If you are congested, which often happens during pregnancy because women produce more mucus, try rinsing or cleaning your nose to make yourself more comfortable.
Menstrual cycle and sleep
As for your menstrual cycle itself, can it cause problems with sleeping? It is much less common than during menopause and pregnancy, but it can happen. Menstrual cycles are regular for the vast majority of women , meaning the hormonal changes are predictable. In young women, it is quite rare for the regular rise and fall of estrogen to disrupt sleep. But there are women with premenstrual syndrome for whom sleep disturbance can be a symptom.
A solution to this may be the mind-body therapies such as yoga, guided visualization and breathing techniques, as well as the "good sleep hygiene" strategies recommended for women who have sleep problems at other stages of life. If period pain is keeping you awake at night, you can try one of the available medications or supplements that promote sleep.
Pharmacist Dirk Christiaen
Founder of Metis Supplements