Not every woman is able to get the seven to eight hours a night of sleep that is recommended for optimal health. Due to the prevalence of sleep disorders during menopause, many women find themselves waking up in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep at all. This can lead to fatigue and increased anxiety during the daytime hours. As the primary cause of sleep disorders during menopause can be traced to imbalances in hormonal levels, the best way to treat sleep disorders and improve sleep quality is by addressing these hormonal issues.
While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was once widely used to treat hormonal imbalances, because of its connection to an increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots, and heart disease, many doctors are changing their minds about this extreme option. Instead, most recommend a combination of lifestyle adjustments and alternative medicine to treat menopausal insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Three Approaches for Treating Sleep Disorders
Three different approaches can be considered in the treatment of sleep disorders: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications.
It is suggested that women start with the least risky approach - lifestyle changes - and then go from there to the next level of treatment. Typically, medications are only used in severe cases.
1. Lifestyle Changes to Promote Sleep
The first stage of treatment involves the lowest risk, but on the other hand, it entails the most determination. In the majority of cases, small adjustments in lifestyle can greatly aid sleep in addition to achieving overall better health.
Sleep disorders can be a result of other common menopause symptoms, such as night sweats or anxiety. This may lead to daytime fatigue and difficulty performing normal daily tasks. Simple changes - such as exercising, practicing stress relief techniques, cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and using the bedroom only for sleep - can all be helpful for managing sleep disorders.
Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
- Go to bed only when sleepy
- Use the bedroom for sleeping only
- Get up at the same time each morning
- Give up caffeine and nicotine
- Exercise daily
- Avoid alcohol
- Limit fluid intake in the evening
- Practice relaxation techniques
Though lifestyle changes are healthy practices that can go a long way in alleviating sleep disorders, they may be hard to implement and subsequently follow. Moreover, they may be able to help establish regular sleep patterns, but they do not treat the underlying hormonal imbalance of disorders like insomnia. Fortunately, alternative medicines are a safe and effective means of addressing hormonal imbalance, so they can get to the root of sleep problems. Keep reading to learn more about natural treatments for sleep disorders.
2. Alternative Medicine
This approach includes a wide range of treatment options. Herbal supplements are typically considered to be the best treatment, but techniques like massage and aromatherapy can also bring greater relaxation and better sleep. However, only herbal supplements address the root of many menopausal sleeping disorders - hormonal imbalance. Additionally, many women find herbal supplements to be easiest to follow, since they require less time and financial commitment than other options.
In the case of herbal supplements, there are two types of herbs that can be used for treating sleep disorders: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating herbs.
Phytoestrogenic herbs (e.g., black cohosh) are rich in plant-based compounds that are chemically similar to estrogen. Introducing these compounds into the body can help balance an estrogen shortage, but as a result of using external hormones, the body can become less able to produce its own hormones, ultimately leading to a decrease in hormone levels.
By contrast, hormone-regulating herbal supplements (e.g., Macafem) do not contain any type of hormones. Instead, they support the endocrine system with essential nutrients, which enhances natural hormone production. This balances not only estrogen, but also important hormones like progesterone. Because these supplements nourish the endocrine glands, they are considered a safe and effective way of treating symptoms related to hormonal imbalance, like sleep disorders.
From "Nature and Health Magazine," Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
"Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production by inducing the optimal functioning of the endocrine glands." Click on the following link if you want to read and learn more about Macafem.
A combination of approaches - blending lifestyle changes with herbal supplements - is typically the best form of treatment. While this works for many women, in cases where sleep disorders are severe or do not change after treatment with the first two approaches, medical intervention may be necessary. However, women should not jump to this option without first evaluating the associated risks.
This approach entails the highest risk and often the highest costs. In the U.S., the most popular medication for sleep disorders during menopause is hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. While this is a powerful and swift treatment method for many patients, it also carries the risk of dangerous side effects and certain forms of cancer, which was revealed in the following study.
In 1991, The National Institute of Health launched the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the largest clinical trial ever undertaken in the United States. The WHI was designed to provide answers concerning possible benefits and risks associated with use of HRT. This study was canceled in July 2002 after it was shown that synthetic hormones increase risks of ovarian and breast cancer as well as heart disease, blood clots, and strokes. The findings were subsequently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Various prescription sleep aids are also available, such as zolpidem, diphenhydramine, and doxylamine, among others. While these may be effective in the short term to get to sleep, in the long run, they can cause a dependence. In addition, they do not promote the natural rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that is so necessary for healthy mind and body function.
It's crucial to keep in mind that while many medications may offer a good night's rest, they also have potential side effects, some of which overshadow the prospective benefits. If a woman is experiencing a sleep disorder so severe that she is considering medication, it is always best to seek the advice of a doctor.
These three approaches - lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, and medications - are not mutually exclusive. A woman may combine them as necessary to address her individual symptoms. More and more women are discovering that treating sleep disorders is most effectively achieved via healthy lifestyle adjustments combined with herbal supplements.
A Safe Way of Treating Sleep Disorders
Hormone-regulating herbal supplements for managing sleeping problems, as seen in the second stage, are thought of as the optimum treatment, since they are both effective and have a very low risk of side effects.
Macafem, for example, is considered to be a great hormone-regulating herbal supplement. It's simple: rather than bringing external hormones into the body, it promotes natural hormone production by nourishing the endocrine system as a whole. This is what makes Macafem distinct. Click on the following link to find out more about Macafem.
- Kravitz, H.M. & Joffe, H. (2011). Sleep During the Perimenopause: A SWAN Story. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 38(3), 567-586. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.06.002
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011). Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf