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Why can’t I sleep? Perimenopause, Menopause and Hormonal Sleep Issues and What to Try

Why can’t I sleep? Perimenopause, Menopause and Hormonal Sleep Issues and What to Try - Niyama Wellness

As women, we know it’s coming.  And in some ways, menopause seems like something to look forward to; I mean, who will actually miss a monthly period, with the mood swings, cramps, and needing to carry tampons or pads?  Not me, or so I thought.

When perimenopause hit me in my mid 40’s I didn’t even know it was a thing.  I’d heard all about the hot flashes and night sweats that come with menopause, but no one was talking about perimenopause and what that looked like.  I think I was in perimenopause for 3 or 4 years before I realized.  Looking back, there were a lot of not so fun symptoms, including the overall sense that I just wasn’t myself.  I felt less capable, more easily stressed/overwhelmed, but the worst part was the impact on my sleep.  I’d always struggled with sleep, so it wasn’t new, but tried and true things didn’t work anymore.  I practiced good sleep hygiene , I took melatonin, and I ate really well, with zero caffeine after midday.  But it wasn’t working anymore; not only was it difficult to fall asleep, I was waking most nights at 2:30 am and taking hours to get back to sleep, if I got back to sleep at all.  And that made every part of life worse.

There are a lot more resources now, only a few years later, and #perimenopause and #menopause are big topics that are becoming far more normalized than they once were.  Just check out those hashtags on any social media platform.  And with good reason – there are an estimated 10 million women over age 40 in Canada, and 95% of women will experience at least one of the 50+ symptoms of peri & menopause. Typically, we enter perimenopause in our 40’s (but it can be earlier), hit menopause (defined as 12 full months with no period) between 45 and 55, and then stay in postmenopause for the rest of our life.  And yet 48% of women feel unprepared when it starts, and were not very aware of the symptoms, beyond the main ones (hot flashes, night sweats, period changes and mood swings).

In terms of sleep disturbances, 57% of women will experience this; even those who have always slept well, so if this is where you are, you are not alone.   

Perimenopausal and Menopausal Sleep Issues are Real

Hormonal Rollercoaster:

The hormonal fluctuations that characterize perimenopause and menopause can disrupt sleep patterns. Estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that influence the sleep-wake cycle, change dramatically. Declining estrogen levels can lead to hot flashes and night sweats, which can interrupt sleep and make it challenging to achieve deep, restorative rest. Less progesterone can cause elevated cortisol levels, leading to insomnia and more stress.

Mood Swings and Anxiety:

The emotional rollercoaster associated with perimenopause and menopause, including mood swings and heightened anxiety, can contribute to sleep disturbances. Many women find themselves lying awake at night, their minds racing with thoughts and worries. Fluctuating hormone levels, particularly the decline in estrogen, can impact cortisol, serotonin and norepinephrine, intensifying feelings of unease and stress.

Physical Changes:

Beyond hormonal shifts, perimenopause and menopause bring about physical changes that can affect sleep. Changes in metabolism, weight gain, and alterations in body composition may result in discomfort or the development of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Additionally, joint and muscle pain, common during this life stage, can make finding a comfortable sleeping position a nightly challenge.

Sleep Cycle Changes:

Research suggests that hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause can disrupt our natural sleep architecture or cycle. This may result in difficulty falling asleep, maintaining deep sleep, or experiencing restorative REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep quality becomes compromised, leading to feelings of fatigue and irritability during waking hours. (sound familiar?)


Strategies and Supplements that Can Help

  1. Sleep Hygiene

Doubling down on sleep hygiene is crucial.  It’s not sexy but so worth it.  We’ve got lots of blogs on sleep hygeine (it’s my passion!) so check out the following: Sleep Hygiene 101, 6 Sleep Habits to put on Repeat, Night Waking and What to do

  1. Daily Exercise

Not too close to bedtime, which can be stimulating.  Try for 20 minutes or more a day, even if it’s just a brisk walk. Find something you love so you don’t want to skip it.

  1. Caffeine & Alcohol

No coffee/caffeine after noon. And start to track the impact alcohol has on your sleep. (Sorry!) I love wine, but I know now that when I have it, I won’t sleep well.  I still imbibe, but a lot less, and less frequently. 

  1. Magnesium bisglycinate (or glycinate, same thing!)

An absolute must during these years. Helps with sleep and relaxation but also so many other vital functions, and deficiency is common. The glycinate form is the best for stress and sleep, absorbs well and has no digestive side effects. Hey Relax Magnesium from Niyama also has tart cherry, inositol, and GABA for sleep, mood, and brain support. It’s also delicious and makes a great after dinner nightcap.

  1. Natural sleep supplements

Melatonin used to be magic for me, but it stopped working in my 40’s.  It didn’t seem to address the root cause of my insomnia, which was stress – specifically cortisol spiking at the wrong times.  Sleep Like Buddha uses 3 proven ingredients to help with stress-related insomnia. Our hormonal fluctuations in peri/menopause cause cortisol to spike, and tend to respond well to Sleep Like Buddha. I love that I can take one at bedtime and a second at 2:30 in the morning if I need to, without next day grogginess.  It takes up to a week to work.

  1. Adaptogens & Nootropics

Adaptogens are plant medicine that helps the body adapt to stress, and nootropics support brain function.  Our Daytime Zen contains 3 Ayurvedic adaptogens including bacopa, which is brilliant for brain fog.  It also contains ashwagandha and theanine for a calm, yet alert feeling, and just takes those anxious feelings way down. 1 capsule (sometimes 2) first thing in the morning usually does the trick for me.

There is hope! When you combine the above strategies and supplements, you should notice a big difference.  And always talk to your health care practitioner about what you are experiencing, and the steps you are taking.  HRT may also be helpful. Be sure to follow all supplement directions and check with your pharmacist if you are taking other medications.




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