Are hot flashes making you lose sleep?
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
I have begun to notice a shift in our conversations when I get together with my girlfriends. It goes something like this:
Friend A: "Do you ever get hot flashes?"
Friend B: "Not sure... sometimes, I think so...but maybe it's just the summer. It's very humid."
Friend A: "I think I have been getting them."
Friend C: "Are you sure? Aren't we supposed to be getting this later?"
Friend B: "We're actually getting to that age..."
For some of us, menopause is just around the corner. We may even be wondering if we have, in fact, already hit perimenopause. I, myself, have even spoken with one of my friends about it and asked her what the transition into menopause was like.
For some, the transition is pretty smooth. My mother says she never experienced any negative symptoms.
For others, though, the transition is rough. They experience depression, anxiety, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and hot flashes. A friend was told that she could undergo hormone replacement therapy to help with the transition. She promptly rejected it as she had worked for a long time privy to information on such treatments and -- well, she was acquainted with the research on its effects. So, while an option, she decided to forego the therapy in favour of eating well and making lifestyle changes. She also participated in a clinical trial of a form of treatment that she says helped her as well.
All of this to say that menopause is a major period of transition for us, and it affects us on so many levels. Since menopause does affect us physically, psychologically, and hormonally, it isn't surprising to learn that many women experience sleep troubles during this period:
"From peri-menopause to post-menopause, women report the most sleeping problems. Most notably, these include hot flashes, mood disorders, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep problems are often accompanied by depression and anxiety."(https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/menopause-and-sleep)
Mid-life tends to be a particularly stressful time. People are balancing their family life, careers, and the taking care of older generations. Some people are looking to make a change in their lifestyle (as we know, mid-life can do this to a person), but they may be wondering how they can make that change, given all of their responsibilities. In fact, the very knowledge that they are entering into the next phase of their lives may, itself, be a cause of stress and anxiety. It's no wonder that many women experience insomnia during this period.
If you aren't sleeping as well as you have in the past, know that you are not alone. If you are experiencing insomnia, remember that one way to overcome it is by learning how to regulate emotions and thoughts. Here's a blog entry that you might find useful: https://www.sleepwellblog.org/post/calm-your-thoughts-to-fall-asleep
As we transition into menopause, women also have a tendency to gain weight because of hormonal changes as well as changes in lifestyle that are often associated with ageing. For instance, people are less physically active in general. This weight gain increases the likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If so, this means that when you are sleeping, your throat muscles relax and your airway becomes blocked, making breathing difficult. When you stop breathing (this is called an apnea), the drop in oxygen will cause you to awaken long enough to clear your airway and breathe once again. Unfortunately, this process will go on to repeat itself throughout the night.
Imagine what this does to sleep quality.
In fact, sleep apnea is a serious condition that leads to fragmented sleep and is related to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Some signs of sleep apnea include snoring and daytime fatigue. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, please consultant your physician.
What can you do to lessen your chances of developing sleep apnea?
Make sure to eat well and exercise. Sleeping on your side also helps.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Although not all of us will experience hot flashes, many women will. It often begins suddenly when an intense warmth is felt on the face, neck, and chest. Needless to say, if you experience a hot flash while sleeping, the night sweats that accompany it will be uncomfortable and may cause you to wake up. It's not uncommon to notice that your bed sheets are soaked in perspiration. Nice (not).
Because of issues with hormone replacement therapy, you may want to know what other methods you can use to deal with hot flashes. One is to make sure that you avoid triggers like stress, wearing tight nightclothes, using heavy blankets, sleeping in warm rooms, and eating spicy food. A change in diet and lifestyle can help. Eating soy (and I would suggest finding one that is non-GMO to avoid glyphosate...just an aside since I also coach on healthy eating) may help with hot flashes.
So, just to recap, here are some tips to consider as some of us begin the transition into menopause:
Eat healthy foods, especially phytoestrogen-rich foods
Get physically active
Make sure that you practice sleep hygiene, making sure that your sleep environment is cool and that you are wearing loose and comfortable nightclothes
Sleep on your side
Keep stress at bay
I hope this entry provides you with some helpful tips. I am sure that some of you may have insights to share with us as well.
Have you been going through this transition? What tips do you have to share? We would love to know. Send us a message or post a comment on this blog or to our Facebook page.