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Women: This Could Be What’s Causing Your Sleep Problems

Sleep problems strike a lot of us now and then. Maybe it’s hard for you to fall asleep, you wake up too early or you wake up a lot during the night. If you have an occasional rough night, you’ll probably bounce back in a day or two. But if your insomnia is stressing you out or affecting what you do during the day, you’ll want to take steps to get it under control.

For women, menopause could be linked with insomnia. “Frequent awakenings tend to increase with menopause—about 40-60% of women report waking up frequently,” said Monica Foster, PhD, a clinical health psychologist and sleep expert at Banner Health in Northern Colorado.

Why is menopause linked with sleep struggles? Dr. Foster points to:

  • Changes in hormone levels, and the hot flashes that can go along with them
  • The psychological aspects of aging you may be coping with at this stage
  • Life transitions—this may be a point in your life when you have a lot on your mind, keeping you awake

Here’s how women can sleep better

Sometimes, insomnia linked to menopause clears up on its own. But it can also become a chronic condition. Dr. Foster recommends these tips that can help women sleep better:

“If you can’t fall asleep, or get back to sleep after waking in the night, get out of bed, go someplace comfortable and do a soothing or relaxing activity.  When you start to feel sleepy again, get back into bed,” Dr. Foster said. “Let go of the ‘effort’ to sleep. The most important thing is to remember not to panic if symptoms of insomnia come on.”

Mindfulness meditation is another effective technique for fighting insomnia. Meditation can help you trigger your body’s relaxation response. As you get more accustomed to feeling relaxed during meditation, you can relax more easily at night when you can’t sleep.

How your doctor can help you solve menopausal sleep problems

If you’re taking those steps and you’re still struggling to sleep well, talk to your doctor. Medical treatments might help.

Dr. Foster said the gold standard of treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i). CBT-i helps you build healthy sleep habits and change the behaviors that are interfering with your sleep. There are psychologists who specialize in CBT-i, as well as online programs that can be effective.

Other sleep issues linked with menopause

Along with insomnia, menopause also increases your risk of another sleep problem—sleep-disordered breathing. “If you notice more daytime fatigue or morning headaches or you’re snoring, talk to your doctor about having a home sleep study done,” Dr. Foster said.

The bottom line

Most people will have a bout of insomnia sometime in their life. And menopausal women are at higher risk of having trouble sleeping. But you don’t have to suffer through the sleepless nights. Strategies you can try at home include medical treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness meditation can get you sleeping well and waking up rested and energized.

Take our free sleep assessment to find out if visiting a sleep specialist might be a good option for you. If you would like to connect with a doctor who can help you solve your sleep problems, visit bannerhealth.com.

To learn more about managing your health during menopause, check out these articles:

Women's Health Sleep

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