Sleep is a major problem for some women during menopause. Hormonal changes may cause a variety of physical and psychological changes that may disrupt sound sleep.
As reported by the National Sleep Foundation, women after menopause report being more dissatisfied with their sleep. Around three out of five women in menopause report symptoms related to insomnia. Snoring, which is sometimes a symptom of sleep apnea, is also more common in women after menopause.
Dr. Eichling and Dr. Sahni noted in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that sleep problems are a hallmark of menopause. Sleep disorders that are associated with menopause including insomnia and sleep disordered breathing.
Hormonal Changes and Sleep
Hormones like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, and melatonin are all thought to have an impact on sleep. Progesterone has a sedative quality. It also affects a person’s breathing and has been used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Estrogen is known to increase REM cycles and decrease the number of times a person wakes up after falling asleep. Estrogen also impacts body temperature and low estrogen is a major part of the hot flashes or spikes in body temperature some women experience. Some women wake up due to hot flashes. For some women, the occurrence of hot flashes during menopause may be brief, lasting for a few months, but others may experience these for years.
During menopause, women are also more likely to experience nighttime surges in cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone known to surge during times of stress. Melatonin, referred to as a sleep promoting hormone, is thought to decline as a normal function of bodily aging. Testosterone is also linked to sleep due to the role it’s believed to play in the development of sleep apnea.
Yoga May Reduce Sleep Problems During Menopause
If you are suffering from sleep problems during menopause, you may be looking for ways to get better sleep.
Sometimes hormone therapy is recommended as one option to reduce sleep problems during menopause. Engaging in healthy sleep practices is also particularly important at this time.
A natural remedy that may be worth trying is yoga. Yoga is gaining increasing attention as a possible solution to reduce sleep problems during menopause.
Researchers involved in MSFLASH (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers to Symptoms and Health) have also found that practicing yoga for sleep may be beneficial to women who are experiencing sleep disruptions in menopause.
Dr. Katherine Newton and colleagues discovered that yoga was associated with a decline in insomnia for women in menopause. Participants in the study took a 12 week yoga class and the connection between yoga and sleep improvements during menopause was statistically significant. The research also looked at the effects of exercise and fish oil but these did not yield statistically significant effects.
Dr. Newton explains, “Many women suffer from insomnia during menopause, and it’s good to know that yoga may help them.”
A 2012 study by Brazilian researchers Dr. Afonso and colleagues confirmed these findings. This research looked at 44 menopausal women with sleep problems and found sleep improvement for those engaged in yoga practice at least two times a week. Researchers concluded “A specific sequence of yoga might be effective in reducing insomnia and menopausal symptoms…”
Best Yoga Poses for Sleep
The Yoga Journal identifies yoga poses that may be particularly helpful for sleep. These include downward-facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, seated forward bend or Paschimottanasana, corpse pose also called Savasana, and standing forward bend or Uttanasana.
Yoga is thought to enhance sleep because it reduces stress and bodily tension. It may also have an impact on bodily hormones. Practicing yoga before bed may be worth trying for those struggling with insomnia. For more helpful sleep tips and the latest research on sleep health, check out the sleep blog at Sleep Outfitters.