Perimenopause Insomnia: Get Better Sleep Tonight!
If you’re a woman over 40 and you sleep soundly every night, good for you!
But for most of us, perimenopause insomnia is a real struggle. Getting a good night’s sleep is like a unicorn.
It seems like it should be so simple, right? Isn’t sleeping something our bodies need and our brains want? So why do so many women in their forties find quality sleep– especially quality sleep night after night– nearly impossible?
Is perimenopause insomnia the same for every woman?
Nope! Just like everything else that has to do with perimenopause, each woman’s experience is unique to her. Different hormone levels, life stressors, and behavioral habits all contribute to perimenopause insomnia.
And there are even plenty of women who move through the midlife transition without any sleep issues at all! Unfortunately, there’s not good data for us to understand why some women might be spared this perimenopause symptom and others suffer.
But for those women who do have insomnia during perimenopause, it can present in two different ways:
- Some women have trouble falling asleep.
- Other women have trouble staying asleep.
The solutions and supports for better sleep will depend on what type of perimenopause insomnia you’re experiencing.
Help! I’m in perimenopause and I can’t fall asleep!
If you fall into bed each night totally exhausted but can’t actually fall asleep, you are not alone. This “tired but wired” feeling is so defeating. You feel exhausted, but you just can’t get your brain to shut off so you can fall asleep already!
Giving your body cues that you’re going to be heading to bed is one way to make the transition to sleep happen faster. Adopting a bedtime routine is a great place to start. Know that you don’t have to spend a long time going through an elaborate routine– you’re just trying to help your body and brain understand that it is safe and okay to wind down.
You might find that simply turning down the lights in your home works. Or if you can’t put down your phone or tablet two hours before bed– the National Sleep Foundation makes this recommendation– try wearing blue light blocking glasses in the evening so you don’t disrupt your brain’s production of melatonin. This sleep-fostering hormone is critical to helping you fall asleep.
This type of perimenopause insomnia is often linked to anxiety as well. Once your brain gets spinning, it is really hard for your body to relax into sleep. Using a guided meditation can help. It will often include breathwork that soothes the nervous system so you are calmed and in a much better state for sleep to take over.
Dr. Aviva Romm, a leading women’s health physician, promotes the idea that the tired but wired feeling is due to exhausted adrenal glands. She calls this condition adrenal fatigue. Her book The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution is full of home-based protocols to help lower your stress levels so your adrenal glands aren’t in overdrive and you can get some restorative sleep.
Note that adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis. That doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t real! Even Harvard Health recognizes that the chronic stress of everyday life is likely what is underlying your symptoms. You can see my ideas for natural ways to lower stress levels here.
Having a physician rule out other causes for your insomnia is always a good idea.
I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep!
If you suffer from night wakings and resulting insomnia (you can’t fall back to sleep), there are a few ways to approach this challenge.
First, take a look at your habits in the hour or two before you go to bed. Are you setting yourself up for a middle-of-the-night party?
Do you like to sit on the couch and drink a glass (or two or three) of wine after the kids are in bed? Or maybe you prefer the company of Ben & Jerry. Either way– whether it’s alcohol or sugar– you are setting your body up for a middle-of-the-night blood sugar crash.
Balancing blood sugar isn’t just important during the day! If you have a nighttime sugar crash, your body will respond with a flush of cortisol. The main job of cortisol is to put you into heightened awareness. Unfortunately, when this state of hyperfocus happens, you can’t sleep…thus you lie awake in the middle of the night.
But you don’t have to have had a wine or dessert binge to trigger the cortisol release. Your body’s daily natural cortisol cycle starts around 3 hours after the onset of sleep. If you’re a regular night-waker, try a small protein snack before you go to bed to minimize the effects of your natural cortisol rise. Something like a cheese stick, a handful of nuts, or a hard boiled egg– around 6 grams of protein– is usually enough to do the trick.
If you wake regularly in the middle of the night because your brain has a genius idea (or you finally remembered the name of that kid in third grade you haven’t thought of in forty years), keep a bedside journal. Giving yourself a place to brain dump quickly will allow you to remember what you need to remember without staying up all night so you don’t forget!
What about night sweats?
Ugh. Night sweats are a horrible reality for so many perimenopausal women.
Even if you can fall asleep, that feeling of being hot and sweaty and sticky and cold– yes, all of those at the same time– is enough to jolt you out of a deep sleep. And if your night sweats are so bad you have to get up and change pajamas or even sheets….then it’s hard to fall back to sleep again.
If you’re prone to night sweats, changing what you wear to bed can help. Cool-jams pajamas are made to help minimize night sweats from happening in the first place, and then they keep you cool and dry if you do have an episode.
Make sure to check out my other ideas for natural relief for hot flashes and night sweats! You don’t have to suffer!
Perimenopause Insomnia: More Solutions for Better Sleep
Knowing why you’re suffering from insomnia is only the first step. Giving some of these solutions a try will hopefully improve your sleep quite quickly.
If you’d like more solutions for better sleep, make sure to poke around here on the blog. Sleep is such a critical aspect of overall health. For midlife women, the stress of everyday life PLUS the changing hormones of perimenopause make sleep a challenge. Understanding what your body needs to sleep better is a great gift you can give yourself!
Karen Shopoff Rooff is an ACE certified health coach. The Well Balanced Women blog is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please discuss your health issues with a licensed medical practitioner.
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