It is imperative that both individuals and society recognise the significance of addressing sleep issues during menopause
Menopause is a phase that marks the cessation of menstruation and reproductive function. Beyond the widely known physical changes, menopause brings a range of challenges, and one often underrated area of impact is sleep. Sleep becomes elusive for many women during this phase.
Menopause and sleep Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being around 46 for Indian women. As the ovaries cease producing estrogen and progesterone, various physiological changes occur, giving rise to a multitude of symptoms. One of the most common complaints is sleep disturbances. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 61% of women going through menopause report experiencing sleep problems. The hormonal changes that accompany menopause have a direct impact on sleep. Estrogen, known to regulate the sleep cycle, decreases during menopause, disrupting the body's internal clock. This can lead to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. Hot flashes and night sweats, affecting up to 75% of menopausal women, further exacerbate sleep. These sudden surges in body temperature can awaken women from deep sleep, leaving them fatigued and irritable during the day.
Sleep efficiency: Studies show that sleep efficiency—the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed—drops significantly during menopause. The post-menopausal women often see this number drop to 70% or lower.
Insomnia: Insomnia becomes a prevalent issue during menopause. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the risk of insomnia doubles during this phase, and about 40% of menopausal women experience insomnia symptoms.
Sleep duration: Menopause can lead to shorter sleep durations. On average, women in their 40s and 50s sleep about 30 to 60 minutes less.
Daytime fatigue: The ripple effects of disrupted sleep patterns are felt during the day. Women undergoing menopause often report increased daytime fatigue, leading to reduced productivity and a diminished quality of life.
Strategies for improved sleep
Despite the challenges, there are effective strategies that can help women improve their sleep quality during menopause.
Create a sleep-conducive environment by keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortably cool. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure to avoid any screen time for at least an hour or two before sleeping.
Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate the body's internal clock.
Practices like meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and promote better sleep.
Engage in regular physical activity but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evening.
Consult a healthcare professional if sleep disturbances become severe.
Menopause is a natural phase of life, and while sleep disturbances may seem inevitable, they are not insurmountable. By understanding the science behind these disruptions and embracing strategies to mitigate them, women can embark on a journey toward restful nights and energized days. From healthcare providers offering tailored guidance to workplaces providing flexibility to accommodate sleep-related challenges, collective efforts can foster an environment where women can navigate this transitional phase in a better manner.
(The writer is Co-Founder and Head of Health Outcomes and Programs, Elda Health; views are personal)