Menopause is a pivotal time of hormonal, physical and psychological change in a woman’s life. The highest amount of hormone changes occur during the menopause (the period of time in a woman’s life that also includes peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause). Menopausal symptoms vary and the average age that a woman may reach the menopause is around 50. As a woman’s ovaries gradually decrease their production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, these hormonal levels fall and symptoms of the menopause surge.
I’ve supported clients that have undergone a planned or emergency hysterectomy and they have experienced menopausal symptoms. Some have had their ovaries removed (Oopherectomy). However many women elect to keep the ovaries, as the surgical removal of both ovaries causes the body to go into a sudden menopause.
For women transitioning into menopause, sleep problems are often par for the course and this is exacerbated by the worry attached to not sleeping. Some of my clients report that they felt sleepy throughout the day, waking earlier than normal and managing on very little sleep. Loss of sleep can take a toll on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. In addition to being tired the menopause can affect sleep in several ways. The National Sleep Foundation has helpful tips for how to manage sleep during the menopause.
We know that changes in hormone production are considered to be the underlying cause of menopausal symptoms. Also the role of estrogen in proper bone growth and maintenance is well established. Alarmingly in many women the loss of estrogen is directly linked to the decrease in bone growth renewal. If the body experiences pain it is difficult to relax and sleep. Physical pain can be worrying and stressful.
Changing and decreasing levels of estrogen can cause hot flushes, which are unexpected and sometimes feelings of heat all over the body which can be accompanied by sweating. Night sweats are a huge issue and can force you awake several times a night. Many of the women I support have needed to change their clothes as they have perspired so much during the night and this in itself is disruptive.
Hot flushes are also usually linked to night sweats and tend to begin around the face and spread to the chest. During a hot flush, you are likely to feel a rise in your body temperature. This mainly affects the top half of your body, and your skin may even turn red and/or become blotchy. Some women feel cold soon after a hot flush and start to sweat. According to some clients, their hot flushes last on average one to three minutes.
Some will continue to have hot flushes and night sweats for a few years post menopause. The actual feeling of the ‘flush’ is caused by a surge of adrenaline which is akin to the body going into fight or flight mode and all this energy rushing around the body can make it difficult to get back to sleep.
If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders, you’re at a greater risk for experiencing insomnia or sleep issues during the menopause.
It is important to note that natural hormonal changes can interfere with sleep, as can changes caused by any medicines or supplements being taken. Sleep disturbance is a side effect for many medications, so if you’re beginning a new medicine such as HRT or using something over the counter, this may contribute to your poor sleep.
Poor dietary habits
Eating too late in the evening can affect your digestion, and in turn, your body’s ability to sleep. Drinking stimulants such as coffee, tea, or alcohol can also disrupt your body’s natural rhythm. The tendency would be to drink more caffeine to compensate for the lack of sleep but this would only exacerbate the problem.
There are many sources of support and I would urge you to seek guidance from your GP.
AUTHOR: ATI BALDING
Ati Balding is a counsellor and wellbeing therapist. She specialises in women’s health, including post hysterectomy care and gynaecological conditions. Ati runs The Sensory Journey which involves meditation, mindfulness practise and the Emotional Freedom Technique. To book Ati, visit her directory listing below.