Menopausal sleep problems? What are they? There are plenty, and in my case, they came into my world not gradually – as they normally would — but crashing down like a thousand-pound-hammer.
When I got cancer in my early 40s, I was devastated. My old world was turned upside down in so many ways. In the process of diagnosis and treatment, I lost my health; my faith in my own longevity was shattered; my sunny disposition was all but gone; my ability to fall asleep easily and stay asleep vanished; my body became weak; my hair brittle; my skin patchy.
Luckily, most of these ailments were temporary. But not all of them.
The cancer treatments, in particular radiation, brought about immediate menopause. Within a month, I was done. Not good for the system, undoubtedly.
Since the end of the treatments, I regained my strength and can do as vigorous exercise as before. My hair was slow to come back with pre-cancer volume and vibrancy but it’s getting there. Thanks to meditation, stress control, and a positive outlook, my depression receded and I am as joyous if not more than before (gratitude is king).
What remains is anxiety and sleeplessness, which I see as two sides of the same coin. They are compounded by this early menopause – a side effect that would have come soon enough but came a few years early after the radiation treatments.
Menopausal Sleep Problems
What is it about menopause and sleep? Don’t we women have enough problems? Women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have so much on their plate as is – most have stress related to their jobs and their household duties: kids, chores, errands. Add to it financial stress, anxiety about health, and more recently, Covid-related general malaise, and the picture is not rosy.
When menopause hits – and even earlier, during perimenopause – women’s bodies become assaulted by wicked hormonal changes. Sex hormones of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone start declining in preparation for the time when women’s need to prepare for, and carry, a pregnancy diminishes. These changes affect not only our menstrual cycle, but also our mood, our metabolism, our sex drive, and yes, our sleep.
How Menopause Changes Sleep Patterns
Women undergo many changes during their life that can affect sleep. During pregnancy, many women find out that they cannot sleep due to their bodies changing or the baby moving inside the uterus. As young mothers, we lose lots of sleep because, well… babies have different sleep cycles and the parents wind up being terribly sleep deprived during their kids’ early years.
Perimenopause – for some women starting as early as in their 30s, but more commonly in the 40s – can last anywhere from a few months to ten years. It is a time of drastic change.
During perimenopause, levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone start to decline significantly—but also fluctuate sharply along that overall decline. Estrogen levels, in particular, may shift erratically during perimenopause, and this hormone’s perimenopausal highs and lows can contribute to a range of symptoms—from hot flashes and night sweats to anxiety to headaches—that interfere with both sleep and waking performance.Dr. Breuss
When the woman’s period stopped for consecutive twelve months, she has officially reached menopause. Some will go through it without any problems, while others suffer tremendously – mood swings, night sweats, hot flashes, unwanted weight gain, sleep disturbances, and more. Here again, the hormonal changes are to blame. And the problems can stay with a woman for years.
That’s true for sleep problems, too. With the settling of hormonal fluctuations, insomnia and other sleep problems may gradually improve for some women after menopause. But the post-menopausal experience—like each phase of the menopausal transition—is highly individual, can vary greatly from woman to woman.Dr.Breuss
Of course, it is not only the hormones that are the culprit. When trying to treat insomnia, it is also important to look at one’s habits and adjust them if needed. Nutrition, exercise, stress reducing strategies, all can help or harm our sleeping patterns.
Natural Menopause Insomnia Remedies
What can we do? Believe me, I have suffered for many years and tried many things. Since I am not a medical doctor, all my suggestions are purely anecdotal (here is the complete medical disclaimer). Still, I will list what worked and what did not for me personally.
Per orders from my naturopath, I have been taking a mega-dose of melatonin (20 mg daily) since my cancer diagnosis. Melatonin is not only helping regulate the circadian rhythm which can get disrupted during midlife. It is also one of the most potent antioxidants and has been showing promise as an anti-cancer drug.
Melatonin could be an excellent candidate for the prevention and treatment of several cancers, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, gastric cancer and colorectal cancer.Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of cancer
Some studies suggest that as many as 75% of Americans are not getting enough of this crucial trace mineral. Not so many are truly deficient but those who are might experience fatigue, nervousness, loss of appetite, muscle cramps and weakness, heart issues, and sleep disorders.
As someone who is also suffering from restless leg syndrome, I have known for a while that I need to increase my intake of magnesium. The best way is always to get the mineral from food sources. For magnesium, it means upping the consumption of green leafy veggies, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate. But just to be sure, I also take a magnesium supplement.
Which magnesium to take?
For improvement of sleep, magnesium glycinate is the best choice. It is also the gentlest form of the mineral, one that won’t send you running to the bathroom as some other types might (some forms of magnesium act as a laxative). To read more about magnesium glycinate uses, check out this article in Medical News Today.
Glycine is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and stress reduction in the body – making Magnesium Bisglycinate a good choice for pre-bedtime supplementation to support restful sleep.Thorne Research
3. Herbal Teas
I also turn occasionally to herbal remedies. I tried Ayurvedic herbs such as Brahmi and Ashwagandha but they didn’t do much for me personally.
I drink herbal teas before bed: chamomile, valerian, and lemon balm (Melissa) make a wonderful tea that helps me unwind in the evening. I started growing my own Melissa so I can now also make a tea from the fresh herb which is great as it keeps the wonderful aroma much better than dried leaves in my opinion.
4. Meditation and Sleep Stories
Part of my nighttime ritual has become listening to meditations and sleep stories. One of my favorite meditations to do before bedtime is the Chakra Aligning meditation. You can read more about it in the post where I also link to two meditations you can listen to on YouTube.
Calm is my go-to app for sleep stories. I like to read before bedtime (always using my blue light blocking glasses though, very important to limit the incoming blue wavelength in order to avoid disruption of the circadian rhythm).
But the last part of the day is a nice sleep story that can lull me to sleep. There are so many! From book chapters and lullabies to pieces of fiction that can take me to far places and different times. Check out the app. It’s free to start but the paid version has much more to offer.
5. Essential Oils
I knew close to nothing about essential oils prior to getting sick. But when chemotherapy left me with peripheral neuropathy in my feet, I was introduced by another patient to the wonderful world of essential oils and their therapeutic properties. They can be used topically or diffused, and I find them very helpful in my nighttime ritual.
Best essential oils for sleep
You’ll find thousands of recipes for essential oil blends that can help with sleep. Here are a few oils that help me. I mix them into blends or use them individually:
- Clary Sage
- Sweet Marjoram
- Ho wood
- Roman Chamomile
If I blend, I use about 6-8 drops in total in my diffuser for about 30 minutes before planning to sleep. The aroma from these oils is relaxing and sleep-promoting. It helps me unwind and forget the day’s worries.
6. Medical Cannabis (THC)
I am lucky to live in California where it is not a problem to purchase medical cannabis legally. Not everyone is that lucky, and also, not everyone might find the effects of the psychotropic THC working for them or pleasurable.
Personally, I find THC works great for insomnia but there is one caveat. Having young children at home and being a worrier in general, I feel uneasy getting “knocked-out” for the night. This is also the reason why I stay away from sleep medication like Ambien or other heavy-duty sleeping pills. I want to be in control and if something were to happen, I need to be alert to drive or help someone in need.
This pretty much makes the use of medical cannabis with the psychotropic effect out of question for me. But, everyone is different. So, just saying, THC works great but it’s not for everybody.
7. Pure CBD Tincture for Sleep
In my search for a less psychotropic cannabis product, I decided to give CBD a try. CBD or cannabidiol is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis. However, it is usually derived directly from a hemp plant, rather than from a marijuana plant. The most crucial difference though is that CBD will not give you a “high.”
CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.Harvard Medical News
There is a lot of CBD on the market. It is popping up in food products and cosmetics. For the purpose of helping insomnia, I believe it is best to try a CBD oil or a CBD tincture.
The claims of CBD for sleep are very impressive. Taking pure CBD tincture before bed can:
- reduce anxiety
- help you fall asleep faster
- may you stay asleep longer
- possibly increase the most restorative sleep phases (REM and deep sleep)
- reduce inflammation and thus help with aches and pain
Is it safe for people with cancer?
There have not been any specific studies done on people with cancer and their use of CBD for sleep and other ailments. Therefore, if you are a patient, please discuss the potential use with your doctor first.
You may find stories online of people discussing the benefits of CBD as a cancer treatment or as relief for side effects. Please remember that such personal stories, while they may be well-meaning, are shared without scientific study and do not constitute evidence. The safety and efficacy of CBD for people with cancer still has to be proven in large, randomized, controlled clinical trials.cancer.net
How to find a quality CBD tincture for sale
Because it is such an “it” ingredient, the market is inundated with CBD products. To find the best, do your research. Make sure that the product comes from a reputable source and a company with ethical practices. Look for “full-spectrum” CBD to get the most benefits.
To make sure that it is non-psychoactive, the tincture must contain less than 0.3% THC. A reputable company will give access to their third party testing and their quality control reporting.
Another important aspect is the dosage. For me, a pure CBD tincture 1000 mg does the trick. This potency provides 33.33mg of pure cannabidiol in each 30 mg bottle.
Where do I get my CBD Tincture 1000mg
My go-to company for CBD oils and tinctures is Bearx CBD. The company offers high-quality products for people and pets (yes, pets have anxiety too).
According to Bearx website, their “formula is carefully created by experienced pharmacists & chemists, to ensure the highest quality and potency.” The CBD is blended with pure coconut oil and dispersed in tiny particles for best absorption, to ensure every dose achieves the highest potency possible.
If you are interested in trying the CBD tincture, here is the link to the website. I believe in the product and became an affiliate for the company. If you use my personalized coupon OKO20 and click on the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
How to take CBD tincture
I take the CBD tincture about 1 hour before bedtime (but 1-2 would be ok too).
I take one dropper full of the tincture and place it under my tongue (sublingually). I keep it under my tongue for 30 seconds (this helps with absorption) and then swallow. Since it leaves a bit of oily residue from the coconut oil, I like to follow with a few sips of water or another drink.
One hour later, I start feeling drowsy. Add to it a soothing sleep story or a quick sleep meditation and I am ready to disappear into the dreamland.
Not a tincture or CBD oil fan?
Some people simply do not like the taste of CBD oil. For those, there are other options such as soft gels or vapes.
There you have it. I hope some of these remedies can help you. Even if you are not a menopausal woman but suffer from sleep issues, give them a try too.