How Can I Battle Insomnia?
"So I'm experiencing all the symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes, mood swings, everything. But the worse is night after nights of NO sleep, which go on for many weeks! Haven't slept for more than an hour here or there. It's 5AM right now and I'm wide awake. I can't take HRT. And I tried one sleeping tablet but never again!"
Menopause can be a really challenging time, but endless sleepless nights can make everything so much harder to manage.
Insomnia is a common symptom for women going through menopause and the good news is that there are natural support options that you can consider.
What’s so wonderful about the suggestions I’m listing below is that they have not only been shown to improve sleep in menopausal women, but they also help with hot flashes, anxiety, and night sweats!
So here are a few options you can consider:
- Black Cohosh. You may have already heard about this herb as it’s one of the most commonly used natural therapies for menopause support, and this is no accident. Black cohosh has the ability to act as an endocrine modulator without actually acting exactly like estrogen, so it’s safe to use throughout this time of hormonal transition.
There’s been some great research done on this herb and it’s been shown to improve insomnia, help reduce hot flashes and night sweats, and to help treat anxiety. Remember that it can take up to 3 months of daily use to see the maximum effect of this herb so give it time before you decide if this supportive option is right for you.
- Melatonin. This is another common natural treatment for insomnia but did you know that it’s been researched specifically for insomnia in menopause as well?
One study found that 5 mg of melatonin improved sleep better than fluoxetine, and not only did melatonin improve sleep but it also reduced hot flashes! This isn’t too surprising as melatonin acts to regulate all our other hormones (including estrogen and progesterone), making this a wonderful and safe treatment to consider as you move through menopause.
- Valerian. This herb is most often used for sleep as it has a calming effect on the body. However, it’s even more useful in menopause as not only does it help with insomnia, but it has also been shown to reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes.
Note that it can take about 4 weeks to see the full effect and as this is a calming herb, and because of it’s sedating effect, this is best to take it at night.
In the meantime, as you wait for the full effect of these wonderful herbs, what can you do to improve insomnia? Lifestyle changes have an amazing and fast impact on menopausal symptoms so don’t discount these small changes!
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol naturally disrupts our sleep, even when we’re not menopausal because of the demand it places on your body as you metabolize it.
Alcohol prevents you from properly entering REM sleep, meaning you sleep lighter and the metabolism demand causes a rebound effect about 4 hours after you have fallen asleep. For menopausal women alcohol is even more problematic as it alters estrogen in our body and has been shown to increase hot flashes.
- Exercise. I’m not talking about extreme physical activity. A vigorous 15 minute walk (done 3-7 times/week) has been shown to not only improve sleep, but improve the quality of your sleep.
Meaning not only can exercise help you sleep more but it can help you get more restful sleep. And unlike botanicals, you will see improvements within the first week of increasing your activity level!
There are a lot of great options to help you manage your sleep safely and effectively. The individualization of this kind of support can sometimes mean it takes a few tries to find a combination that works best for your body but knowing what options may be available to you is a big step in the right direction.
In support of your health, Dr. Clarence, ND
DR. HAYHLEE CLARENCE ND
Dr. Clarence has a Doctorate of Naturopathy degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She is a strong advocate for conventional care, recognizing that when possible, naturopathic medicine functions best alongside medical treatment.