Did you know that roughly 39% to 47% of women experience sleep issues when they enter perimenopause? According to research shared by The Sleep Foundation, just under half of perimenopausal women experience symptoms that disrupt their ability to get high-quality sleep. This number remains fairly consistent throughout menopause, with 35% to 60% of postmenopausal women stating they experience issues with sleep.
So if you’re experiencing menopause at this time and are finding a good night’s sleep hard to come—know that you’re certainly not alone.
The trouble with sleep and menopause tend to go hand in hand, with the usual range of side effects (night sweats, hot flashes, and more) contributing both directly and indirectly to poor sleep. Unfortunately, poor sleep often worsens the experience of menopausal symptoms.
But if you’re menopausal and wondering how you can avoid sleep disturbances and maintain your 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, don’t despair! Read on to learn more about the menopausal transition and three tips you can use to stay well-rested and at the top of your game. Plus, find out how you can incorporate innovative solutions like the Muse S Headband, which has an 86% accuracy in detecting sleep patterns into your sleep routine and can restore your sleep during the menopausal transition.
Menopause: A review of the basics
There are three main stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
Perimenopause typically begins in a woman's early 40s and is marked by decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. This stage can last anywhere from three to ten years until menstruation hasn’t occurred for 12 months. At this point, a woman has gone through menopause. After these initial 12 months, women will typically enter the post-menopausal state which lasts from two to five years.
Throughout all these stages though, the side effects of the hormonal, psychological, and physical changes taking place often disrupt sleep.
Symptoms associated with menopause that can disrupt sleep
Menopause is infamously known for coming with a range of side effects that can be challenging to deal with. Some of these directly impact sleep, while others indirectly affect our ability to fall and stay asleep through the night.
Insomnia is a chronic condition of difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep that occurs at least three times a week. According to The Sleep Foundation, one in four women struggles with symptoms of insomnia. However, the likelihood of insomnia increases significantly for women after menopause, with as many as 61% reporting insomnia symptoms.
Insomnia can significantly affect mental health through its negative impact on our ability to focus, irritability, anxious thoughts, and increased incidence of inflammation and headaches.
If you’re struggling with menopause insomnia, we recommend you listen to our Untangle podcast featuring Dr. Shelby Harris. This episode titled, A women’s guide to getting a good night’s sleep, talks about how we can change our habits and other tips to beat insomnia for good.
Hot flashes & night sweats
Hot flashes are one of the most common side effects of menopause and are characterized by a sudden and intense sensation of heat throughout the body, often accompanied by sweating. Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and five minutes and usually begin in the face before spreading to other areas. When these hot flashes occur at night, they are called night sweats.
It’s estimated that roughly 75-85% of women going through menopause experience night sweats and hot flashes.
Not only are night sweats highly disruptive to sleep, but the experience of a hot flash in general is very energizing because it flushes the system with adrenaline. This can create a potent combo that makes it difficult to stay asleep and fall back asleep after night sweats.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and snoring become more prevalent among women after menopause. Experts suggest that the rate of OSA — a condition marked by pauses in breathing that cause snoring and choking sounds that can disrupt sleep—may increase alongside menopause due to falling levels of progesterone. Progesterone is believed to help prevent the upper airways from relaxing and collapsing during sleep.
Roughly 4% of women experience OSA beginning with menopause. However, women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) following menopause have lower rates of OSA than women not on hormone therapy.
Many women find themselves experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety during menopause. This can be a cyclical problem, which both causes and is compounded by other side effects of menopause. For example, chronically poor quality sleep can prompt and worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression can also lead to restlessness and their own host of sleep issues.
Other sleep disorders
Peri or postmenopausal women often struggle with lesser known disorders such as periodic limb movement disorder and restless leg syndrome. These disorders often prompt sleep disturbances and can involve involuntary leg movements that jolt women awake from sleep.
The science behind how menopause affects sleep
Most of the side effects of menopause can be traced back to falling levels of estrogen and progesterone. Around the age of 40, the ovaries (prompted by the brain) begin releasing less and less progesterone and estrogen. While these hormones are typically associated with fertility and the menstrual cycle, they are also involved in a range of functions including mood, sex drive, appetite, energy levels, and sleep.
For example, research has found that estrogen has an antidepressant effect and is involved in the metabolism of key neurotransmitters like serotonin (known for its mood-boosting properties). These neurotransmitters play key roles in our body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycles. Estrogen also helps our bodies stay cool as we sleep, and falling levels of estrogen may contribute to night sweats.
How you can improve sleep while going through menopause
Luckily, these side effects are not without remedies! While menopause looks different for every woman, there are many ways you can get menopausal sleep solutions and find relief.
Diet & supplements
Maintaining a balanced diet can improve overall wellbeing and supports greater resilience and recovery from menopause symptoms.
Foods that feature phytoestrogen — a plant hormone similar to estrogen — can help minimize menopause side effects. Phytoestrogen can be found in soy products and in some over-the-counter supplements.
However, as supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it’s important to discuss with your doctor to explore their potential for you.
Additionally, many find it’s best to avoid spicy food, which can trigger hot flashes.
Melatonin is another well-known sleep supplement that, in low doses, can help improve mood and sleep onset for menopausal women.
A study published in the journal Menopause found that increased levels of daily physical activity were linked with improved sleep quality for women with hot flashes and night sweats. Just make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, or you might find it keeps you awake instead!
Stress & mindfulness
Stress plays a huge role in the experience of menopause symptoms. Not only can menopause symptoms cause stress, but stress and the emotional toll it takes can impact the experience of menopause, often for the worse.
Mindfulness meditation has been well-researched for its beneficial effects on stress management, reduced negative affect and anxious thoughts, and positive effects on sleep.
One study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine compared the effects of a mindfulness meditation intervention versus sleep hygiene education (SHE) classes for people currently experiencing sleep problems.
Researchers found that the mindfulness based intervention led to significantly higher quality sleep and improved secondary health outcomes of insomnia including day-time impairment, anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, and inflammation compared to the SHE intervention.
How Muse can help with sleep problems caused by menopause
Muse offers a unique, two-fold approach to improved sleep quality. We’ve spent hundreds of hours mapping out the brain activity associated with different mental states to create a dynamic and interactive system aimed at helping you cultivate your desired mental experience.
Muse does this first by pairing attention training with world-class meditations. (Take a look through our catalog of over 500 guided meditations here!) These meditations alone can support greater focus that can make falling asleep easier.
But beyond meditation training, what many users love most about Muse is our neurofeedback system, Digital Sleeping Pills (DSP), designed to help you fall and stay asleep more easily. As you fall asleep, Muse monitors your brain waves. If it notices you coming into a waking state too early, it provides gentle sounds in the form of neurofeedback to guide you back to a state of restful sleep.
Trusted by neuroscientists and clinicians, our at-home sleep tracker, the Muse S Headband, is backed by research from esteemed institutions like NASA, Yale, Harvard, and more. Elevate your sleep quality by up to 20%—transform your nights, prioritize your well-being, and experience the Muse difference today.