One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is insomnia. How many of you have been lying awake in the middle of the night drenched in sweat with your heart racing?
Over the course of the night we sleep in several consecutive cycles. Throughout the cycles we sleep both deeply and lightly. But, despite sleeping more lightly at times, we are not intended to wake up regularly. We shouldn’t have to change sheets in the middle of the night either. A friend of mine told me that she always woke up around three o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep so she simply got out of bed and baked instead. She never slept more than four or five hours per night. Not even on weekends. She is one of those people who claims she doesn’t need a lot of sleep, that she functions anyway. This is usually a myth — in the long term, people cannot cope without sleep.
Insomnia Affects Our Entire Existence
Sleeping is a great thing you can do for your wellbeing. During sleep your brain sorts out and processes the day’s information. Sleep is like mindfulness for the body and mind. Our nervous system relaxes and our stress hormones decrease. Sleep even helps our immune system to function better. So, insomnia affects our entire existence. If we don’t sleep well, we do not function well. So how come so many of us have disturbed sleep during perimenopause?
Melatonin and Estrogen
Melatonin is a hormone that exists naturally in our bodies. It helps us to regulate the sleep-wake cycle throughout the day. The production and release of melatonin occurs with a circadian (daily) rhythm with peak levels occurring at night. Melatonin decreases with age but is also affected by the decreasing estrogen in our bodies. When estrogen decreases, melatonin decreases, which is why sleep disturbances occur in perimenopause.
Sleeping Pills vs Lifestyle Changes
I had severe insomnia, so bad that my MD gave me sleeping pills that totally knocked me out. What followed were extreme nightmares and hallucinations which made me come to a point where I didn’t want to take them anymore. Instead, I looked for lifestyle changes and other options. In my book Perimenopower I share the things that have been useful for me. Maybe some of them could help you, too. I talk about everything from acupressure mats to antihistamines. There is actually a lot you can do throughout perimenopause to sleep better. And eventually, when you are approaching menopause and the lifestyle changes are not working, HRT could be an option. I will go through the latest research about HRT in my coming posts. I started when I was 48 and now I finally sleep like a queen.
Katarina Wilk is a Swedish writer covering medicine and health. She is the author of the book Perimenopower: Your Essential Guide to the Change Before the Change. (Orion Spring) Follow Katarina on Instagram @katarinawilk and at katarinawilk.com