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UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT WAYS MENOPAUSE CAN AFFECT SLEEP

During our 40s and 50s, we women often find ourselves busier than we’ve ever been, juggling our careers, families, homes, social obligations and a multitude of other things that come our way. More and more, we rely on sleep to play an essential part in our self-care routine. And yet, just when this rest is so important, the menopause strikes and sleep becomes a rare commodity.  


Why does the menopause affect sleep?

According to the Sleep Foundation, whilst only 15% of the general population experience sleep-related issues, up to 61% of menopausal women struggle with the same.[1] This happens because the hormonal shifts that occur during the menopause affect many of the body’s regular routines and rhythms. Fluctuating oestrogen levels are often responsible for many unwelcome interruptions to a good night’s sleep, from night sweats to insomnia. 


Why do I have night sweats during the menopause?

Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night, often making you wake up with sweat-drenched nightwear and bedding. Whilst they are known to be triggered by other reasons such as illness and lifestyle factors, during the menopausal years it is often oestrogen imbalances that are responsible.[2] Decreasing levels of oestrogen can affect your body’s internal thermostat, causing your body to mistakenly think that you are too warm. As a result, your body tries to release the excess heat by dilating the blood vessels near the head, neck and chest — leading to hot flashes that may strike at any time. Night sweats may not affect how much sleep you get overall, but they may disrupt your sleep cycle by waking you up at various times throughout the night, causing fatigue and anxiety.

You may find that making some small changes to your nighttime routine and environment may go a long way. Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing like our cooling night dresses can help keep your skin feeling cool and dry. You can also try a tall glass of cool water before you sleep, a fan by your bed, and breathable sheets that are engineered to keep you feeling fresh and cosy all night long. Avoiding triggers of hot flashes such as spicy food, caffeine, and alcohol can also make a big difference.


Why do I feel itchy all night?

Itchy skin (pruritus) is one rather unexpected, less-spoken-about side-effect of the menopause. Falling oestrogen levels during the menopause affect our skin's ability to regenerate itself and to retain its natural oils and moisture, resulting in thinner, drier skin that can feel itchy and irritated — including at night. [3] As such, many menopausal women may experience skin sensitivity all over their body, including their arms, legs chest, back and even vagina.[4]

While these changes in our skin that happen with age are inevitable, there are many ways to soothe your skin and banish the itchiness that’s keeping you awake at night, from nutritional changes to natural home remedies and medical treatments. Collagen peptides as well as vitamins C, D, E, and K all play important roles in your skin's health and are available as over-the-counter supplements, though of course, you can get them from your diet too. Some clothing items, including our own HydraDerma range, are specifically designed to offer an additional layer of protection for your skin, helping to improve moisture retention and reduce irritant during this otherwise uncomfortable time. 


Can the menopause cause insomnia?

Alongside managing a broken, disturbed sleep, during the menopausal years, it is common for women to have trouble falling asleep altogether. 26% of menopausal women are diagnosed with insomnia. [5] There are a number of factors that can contribute to insomnia during the menopause, from imbalanced hormone levels, to mood swings that can be caused by those very imbalances. For example, elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels in menopausal women, has been linked a more restless sleep. [6]

Sleeping well, like many other things we can often become better at with effort, requires healthy choices and practice. Giving up smoking and cutting back on alcohol are two vital factors that may improve your sleep, and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and a good bedtime routine that helps you relax and soothe your mind may go a long way as well. If natural remedies don’t work for you, you may need to speak to your doctor about other solutions such as counselling for anxiety, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).


Will HRT help me sleep better during the menopause?

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) helps balance your hormone levels by giving you a tailored amount of hormones to make up for what your body is no longer producing. HRT  has been found to help women maintain normal sleep patterns, but may have side effects like an increased risk of breast cancer. There are different types of HRT treatment, and figuring out which one will work for you may require some testing. You will need to consult your doctor to determine which treatment will be best for you. Have a look at our top picks of the best HRT guides to help you decide what to do next.

The important thing to remember is that you won’t be able to improve your sleep by worrying about it. The anxiety that often accompanies this period of change can set you back by worsening your sleep. Keeping a cool head and seeking help is the best way forward.

For more information, check out these great tips to tackle menopause-related sleep problems or head over to our Menopause Guide.

  1. The Sleep Foundation, Menopause and Sleep (2018). Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/menopause-and-sleep. [Accessed 6 Feb 2020]
  2. Sleep Foundation, Common causes of Night Sweats (no date). Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/four-common-causes-night-sweats. [Accessed 27 Jan 2020]
  3. Pragya A. Nair, Dermatosis associated with menopause, J Midlife Health (2014) Oct-Dec; 5(4): 168–175. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264279/. [Accessed 6 Feb 2020]
  4. Falcone D, Richters RJ, Uzunbajakava NE, Van Erp PE, Van De Kerkhof PC, Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuation, Eur J Dermatol. (2017 Feb) 1;27(1):42-48. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27873738. [Accessed 6 Feb 2020]
  5. Fiona C Baker, Massimiliano de Zambotti, Ian M Colrain, and Bei Bei, Sleep problems during the menopausal transition, Nat Sci Sleep, (2018) 10: 73–95. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810528/. [Accessed 6 Feb 2020]
  6. Massimiliano de Zambotti, Ian M. Colrain, and Fiona C. Baker, Interaction between Reproductive Hormones and Physiological Sleep in Women, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2015 Apr; 100(4): 1426–1433. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399298/. [Accessed 6 Feb 2020]

For more support and advice, head back to our dedicated menopause guide

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