The reasons for the loss of a single good night's sleep are multifactorial and could be due to anything ranging from worry and anxiety through to too much coffee or indigestion. There are also underlying health conditions that can cause insomnia. However, sleep researchers from Loughborough University say that women actually need twenty minutes more of sleep than men. The extra amount of sleep required, is due to the demands multitasking, juggling work and often childcare. This means that women's brains and bodies are often working harder. This will not come as news to most women.
Women need twenty minutes more sleep than men
Unfortunately, the menopause is also associated with sleep deprivation issues. Generally, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep and as many as 61% report insomnia, compared to only 54% of men.
Lack of sleep during menopause needs to be taken seriously
Gynaecologist, Mike Savvas says, "Poor sleep has long-term effects including heart disease, diabetes, dementia and obesity, and even cancer’. The King’s College Hospital consultant gynaecologist and one of the lead consultants at The London PMS and Menopause Clinic goes onto say, "The issue of lack of sleep during menopause needs to be taken seriously. The good news is, there are strategies and good treatments available."
What are the main menopause related sleep symptoms?
The top five menopause related sleep symptoms include the following:
1. It's far too hot and night sweats
Find yourself tossing and turning, peeling off pyjamas and bedsheets? Perhaps you even have to get up in the middle of the night to change. Around 75% of those going through the menopause experience hot flushes and night sweats – known by doctors as the vasomotor symptoms. These symptoms occur before and during menopause because of changing hormone levels, including oestrogen and progesterone, affecting the body’s temperature control.
Mr Savvas says,"There is a strong association between the vasomotor and poor sleep. It may be at its worst in the perimenopause, but for some women these symptoms may last for up to ten years."
2. Overactive bladder
The other sleep stealer for women in their 40s and beyond is the frequent trips to the loo. Up to 30% of women suffer from urinary symptoms in the menopause, usually the need to visit the loo frequently. Declining oestrogen is associated with overactive bladder. Without enough oestrogen, there may be atrophic changes in the lower urinary tract leading to this urge to urinate frequently at night.
3. Muscle and joint pains
If you find you can’t get comfy in bed, due to joint and muscle pain, gynaecologists won’t be surprised. Aches and pains can increase in the menopause and musculoskeletal pain is very much associated with menopause. A loss of muscle mass - along with losing bone density - during menopause may also occur at a higher rate than before and existing problems may be exacerbated. Like many sleep-related issues, it can be a vicious circle – is the lack of sleep causing worsening aches? Or is the pain triggering insomnia? We do know sleep is a very important for those with musculoskeletal pain – a lack of good quality rest makes everything feel worse.
4. Restless legs
Restless legs - also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system which makes sufferers want to move their legs. Nobody is quite sure what causes it, but if you’re female, you’re twice as likely to experience the condition as males are, and it often affects women during pregnancy and menopause. Sufferers get tingling sensations in their legs at night, some liken it to creepy crawlies on their legs. One study showed 69 per cent of post-menopausal women said their symptoms worsened since their menopause.
5. Can't stop thinking
Women are 2 to 4 times as likely to develop depression around some of the menopause compared to younger women, so it’s not a surprise if anxieties and low mood are preventing you from getting to sleep. Mr Savvas says. "Changes in emotions are common in menopause. These include depression anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. All of these things can lead to poor sleep but are also worsened by poor sleep."
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary