Night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia.
The hormonal changes women undergo during menopause can lead to plenty of sleep disruptions. But that doesn’t mean good, restful sleep is out of reach for women going through this transition. We asked Family Medicine Physician Carolyn Torkelson, MD, who specializes in women’s integrative health, to share a few tips for healthy sleep during menopause.
Sleep hygiene involves making lifestyle choices and establishing practices that support healthy sleep. It’s important for women going through menopause to practice the habits of good sleep hygiene. Healthy habits include:
They’re not for everyone, but some women consider taking hormone therapy to alleviate their night sweats.
“This is a discussion women should have with their care providers. Estrogen can eliminate night sweats and different doses and routes of administration can be prescribed in accordance with a patient’s needs,” Torkelson said.
Other medications, including gabapentin and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown to decrease the number of hot flashes and night sweats women experience. Botanicals—such as black cohosh—can be beneficial to some women to reduce perimenopause-related sleep disruptions as well.
What we put in our body affects how we feel, and that’s especially true for menopausal women. First, try to avoid alcohol. Alcohol can be a trigger for hot flashes and can subsequently affect sleep, said Torkelson, who recommends avoiding alcohol in the evening hours. You should also consider ditching caffeine and late-night snacks. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make falling asleep difficult, while late-night snacks— especially those high in carbohydrates—can disrupt sleep patterns.
Regular exercise is critical for a good night sleep, but women should avoid exercising late in the day. That’s because exercise releases endorphins that are stimulating for the body. Torkelson recommends that menopausal women perform 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise to maintain a healthy weight, muscle strength and bone health. Exercise routines should also include stretching and aerobic activities, Torkelson said.
Menopausal women are often in a transitional period in their lives, and must juggle demands from children, aging parents and work. Practices that calm the body and mind are essential so that sleep can be a time of refuge and relaxation and is not filled with anxious thoughts. Some useful steps include: