Did you ever feel like screaming at the top of your lungs saying:
“Can I get some sleep, please?”
You are tossing and turning, changing into various sleeping positions you could ever make, but to no avail, your eyes are still wide opened at 2am. Sometimes, you awaken in the middle of the night because of hot flashes and too much sweating. You throw your blanket and some pillows out from your bed, trying to make yourself comfortable and desperately hoping to get more sleep. However, you just don’t get it. You don’t understand what’s happening to your body.
Your struggle is real… sleep problems are making your menopausal experience terrible.
We will help you find out why it is difficult to get adequate sleep during your pre-menopause and menopausal period. Likewise, we will give you effective tips every menopausal woman should know to end your agony with sleep problems.
What Causes Sleep Problems in Menopausal Women?
Menopause disturbs your sleeping pattern primarily because of hormonal changes. Either you find it difficult to fall asleep or you can’t stay asleep for a long period. Likewise, you might awaken too early in the morning and often feel tired upon waking. Some health practitioners refer to this condition as menopausal insomnia, a sleep disorder that arises secondary to menopause.
Menopausal insomnia refers to the sleep disorder that arises secondary to menopause. It is manifested by difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep for a long period. It makes you feel tired upon waking and it can make you wake up too early in the morning despite sleeping late at night.
The female hormone, progesterone, drops during the transition to menopause. This body chemical is mainly involved in various reproductive processes. The ovaries (female reproductive organ), adrenal glands and placenta (during pregnancy) produce this hormone. Moreover, progesterone is one of the significant hormones that chemically help you sleep well. However, the reproductive function of the ovaries decline as you age and so does the production of progesterone.
Another female hormone that declines during the menopausal period is estrogen. This hormone works hand in hand with progesterone to allow the reproductive system to perform its various functions. Although it is not directly involved with the sleeping mechanism like progesterone, the decrease of estrogen levels during perimenopause and the menopausal period results in other symptoms of menopause that are severe enough to disrupt your good night sleep. Here is a list of menopausal signs and symptoms related to estrogen reduction that cause your sleep problems:
1. Hot flashes
Hot flashes or hot flushes are one of the most disturbing symptoms of menopause that can keep you up at night. Seventy-five (75%) of menopausal women experience hot flashes. Supposedly, the core temperature of the body must decrease at night to induce sleep. Have you noticed you are more likely to feel sleepy during cold weather, which follows the same principle in falling asleep at night?
However, you often experience a sudden increase of your body temperature in the middle of the night related to the decline of estrogen level caused by menopause. This uncomfortable feeling can either prevent you from falling asleep or make it difficult for you to stay asleep.
2. Night sweats
Night sweats or sleep hyperhidrosis is a condition of profuse sweating at night during the menopausal period. This is often associated with severe hot flashes. For sure, your sleep has been disrupted many times, as you need to get up, change your clothes, and bed sheets that were soaking with sweat!
3. Mood disorder
Mood disorders such as anxiety are another menopausal symptom that causes sleep problems. Most menopausal women would describe it as a vague feeling of agitation and loss of emotional control. What makes you sleepless when you are anxious is that it can give you rapid heartbeats, shortness of breath and palpitations (loud, pounding heartbeat). It’ is making you overthink, agitated and emotional.
Another mood disorder that may result in sleep problems in menopause is depression. It is often manifested by insomnia (difficulty in sleeping) or over-sleeping.
Anxiety and depression in menopause results from estrogen drop. Estrogen plays a significant role in the production of brain chemicals that regulates mood, which include dopamine and serotonin.
4. Digestive problems
Menopausal women experience digestive issues as well. Low estrogen levels during menopause causes low bile production, which results to poor food transit. That is why you often have abdominal cramps, nausea and bloating. When this abdominal discomfort strikes at night, your good night’s sleep is compromised.
Are you suffering from headaches more often? If headaches have been bothering you any time of the day, even at your sleeping hour, many menopausal women share the same symptom. Yes, the fluctuation of estrogen levels during menopause plays a part in the persistent headaches.
Estrogen has a significant role in regulating brain chemicals that affect pain sensation. When your estrogen level is low, it triggers headaches. Mostly, menopausal women would experience headaches simultaneously with their hot flashes because estrogen drops causes both. This is not a good combination of symptoms when you are trying to get some sleep.
6. Itchy skin
What’s more disturbing than itchy skin during sleeping hours? It just feels so uncomfortable when you feel like some creepy bugs are crawling underneath your skin! The good thing is there are no bugs involved just your estrogen levels playing tricks on you. It just feels so uncomfortable when you feel like some creepy bugs are crawling underneath your skin! The good thing is there are no bugs involved just your estrogen levels playing tricks on you.
The skin itchiness that causes your sleep problems is known as pruritus. During menopause, the production of collagen slows down due to decreased estrogen levels. Collagen maintains your skin tone and resilience. Thus, when you don’t have adequate collagen, your skin becomes dry, flaky, wrinkled and thinner. Skin dryness and flaking is the cause of your itchiness, similar to that of having dandruff on your scalp.
7. Muscle tension and joint pain
Does muscle pain and tension trouble you at night? Do you feel tightness or strain in your neck, shoulders and back? Do you feel stiffness, pain and soreness all over your body? Well, that’s another effect of low estrogen level, which may keep you up at night.
Actually, the low estrogen levels during menopause trigger an increase in production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Persistent elevation of cortisol levels causes muscle tension and fatigue.
Joint pain also results from low estrogen level because estrogen is important in preventing joint inflammation. Even without trauma or other physical causes, half of menopausal women experience joint pain because inflammation can’t be kept at bay when your estrogen level drops.
8. Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence affects 30-70% of menopausal women. Low estrogen levels cause this urinary incontinence.
Estrogen keeps the muscle tissues around and in the urinary bladder and urethra strong. However, estrogen decrease makes these muscle tissues weak and thin, resulting in loss of urinary bladder control, giving you episodes or involuntary urination or leakage of urine.
Incontinence is embarrassing, particularly when you’re on the move, and you just can’t hold your bladder. It is never funny to have incontinence. It also causes you sleep problems because it increases your urgency to urinate at night.
Why Menopausal Sleep Problems are Devastating to Your Health?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average of sixty-one percent (61%) of perimenopausal and menopausal women reported sleep problems. With all the hormonal imbalances and the several disturbing menopausal symptoms, no wonder you can’t get enough sleep at night. However, your agony doesn’t end there because menopausal sleep problems can result in various health issues. It can cause daylight fatigue, weight gain, mood disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and increased risk of vehicular accidents.
Sleep helps to rejuvenate your body. Just like an undercharged cellphone battery, you can’t keep up with your activities all day if you haven’t recharged your body fully at night by sleeping adequately. Often, you feel daylight fatigue. It is because your brain and body are demanding a rest to regain strength and energy. As a result, you become less productive.
Sleep problems in menopausal women cause weight gain too. With lack of sleep, the hormone that triggers hunger, ghrelin increases. On the other hand, sleep deprivation decreases your leptin level, the hormone that tells you to stop eating. Therefore, elevated ghrelin makes you hungry more often while the decrease in leptin causes you to lose the regulation as to when to stop eating. These two mechanisms contribute to your weight gain.
Sleep deprivation can also slow down your metabolism, your body’s ability to convert nutrients into energy. Therefore, it is not a good idea to eat more, as the nutrients, particularly carbohydrates, will be stored in the form of fat instead of being used as energy source. However, your low leptin level and high ghrelin level wreaks havoc on your eating habits, which makes it difficult to eat less.
Lack of sleep can also affect your mood. It makes you irritable and anxious. Often, sleep problems are associated with depression. It is actually a common symptom of depression. However, other medical researchers also cited that lack of sleep could contribute to the development of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Moreover, sleep problems increase your risk of having cardiovascular disease. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a certain study finding revealed that the risk of having a stroke or heart attack is doubled in adults aging 45 years old and above who sleep fewer than six hours at night. The disruption of biological processes such as the blood pressure, glucose metabolism and inflammation occurs when you are sleep deprived. These factors play a significant role in the development of heart diseases.
Likewise, in a study from the University of Chicago, results showed that there is increased coronary artery calcification or deposition of calcium in the blood vessels of the heart. The calcification is a predictor of coronary artery disease, in people who have shortened sleep duration. Keep in mind as well that fat deposition is increased when you lack sleep, and fat deposit is a major contributing factor leading to various cardiovascular diseases.
Diabetes is another complication that might result from your sleep problems. Lack of sleep wreaks havoc to your hormonal balance, which affects the regulation of your glucose (blood sugar). Chronic sleep deprivation causes malfunction to the cells that produce insulin, the hormone responsible for delivering sugar into your cells for energy use. As a result, sugar remains in your bloodstream, known as hyperglycemia, a common sign of diabetes.
The increase fat deposition secondary to sleep problems also contributes to the development of diabetes. The more fats you store, the more it is difficult for your cells to use insulin properly in keeping your blood sugar at normal level.
Lastly, lack of sleep increases your risk for road accidents. In the latest data provided by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, there were 1,193 total road fatalities in the year 2013. Now ask yourself, how many times did you nod off at the wheel? Be reminded, many drivers have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Some of them were in a fatal accident.
Now that you know the causes and complications of menopausal sleep problems, you need to learn how to deal with them effectively and set yourself free from those sleepless nights. I have several tips for you through the sequel to this article 8 Effective Tips Menopausal Women Miss That Keep Them Struggling From Sleep Problems Part 2.
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