The best sleep aids for menopause insomnia and disrupted sleep

The Plague

The Journal of Menopausal Medicine published a study that found between 39-47% of perimenopausal women experience sleep problems and that number increases from 35-60% for those in post-menopause.

Since estrogen and progesterone are intertwined to play off each other, as they fall out of sync, they will rise and fall to their own tempo. Both have roles in thermoregulation as estrogen allows the distribution and release of heat, yet progesterone hangs on to it.

They also contribute to emotional influences as progesterone is known as the “chill-out police” who calls on serotonin and dopamine to come in when cortisol levels are rising from stress. This process also manages estrogen’s ability to spike anxiety, and sway big mood swings.

If you’re confused and baffled that you’re suddenly facing problems that you’ve never had before, you’re not losing your mind. In their dominant periods estrogen is encouraging a state of uneasiness while progesterone is flaring a hotter than heck habitat.

This reproductive pair was also a protector from sleep apnea which can now develop and might trigger other disorders such as excessive sleepiness during the day (hypersomnia) and even narcolepsy.

In essence, you’re facing a higher probability for an onslaught of factors to disrupt your sleep quality…

The Additional Third Wheel

So your high body temperature and elevated emotions aren’t allowing you to fall or stay asleep and as an additional party favor, your melatonin levels are dropping.

While melatonin naturally decreases with age in both men and women, women are especially prone to its decline at a faster rate since the “chill-out police” aren’t around to knock down members of the stress gang (adrenaline and cortisol) from attacking, and melatonin production becomes further suppressed and blocked

While melatonin is not essential to go to sleep it does help to achieve a deeper and longer sleep cycle. When it’s scarce it causes you to feel restless, wake up earlier, and thus affects cognitive function.

Also, melatonin acts as an antioxidant to help protect bone health which is mostly repaired when in the later cycles of deep REM sleep. Infrequent visits of getting into the nightclub REM means osteoporosis becomes more prevalent.

Nourish Thy Sleep

As with any and all sleep recommendations, it’s best to keep a consistent schedule, have the thermostat around 65 degrees, and be in a soothing, dark environment.

Especially with melatonin depletion it is very important to get away from the blue light that’s emitted by tv’s, computers, and mobile screens. It’s proven to elevate your energy and disrupt your circadian rhythm to keep you alert.

Obviously, you can take melatonin as a supplement but some people report that they have an adverse effect to it with extreme grogginess the next morning or they feel hungover. Here are other natural remedies that might be helpful as perimenopausal sleep aids: 

Ashwaganda

This herb is a powerful adaptogen and it has antioxidant properties. Therefore it has a wide range of benefits from calming the nervous system and reducing inflammation to boosting brain function and lowering anxiety.

Just know that it is not 100% water soluble. So if you purchase it as a powder, it should be mixed with milk. It can also be found as a tea or it comes in pill form.

Goji Berries

This powerhouse is not only high in melatonin but it also has a potent level of antioxidants. They’ve become widely available and are very versatile with a subtle flavor. Add them to your trail mix or cereal or just snack on the fruit itself.

Magnesium

This mineral is essential for regulating melatonin, supporting bone health and tissue generation yet it only comes from food or a supplement. If you’re finding that you have persistent joint aches and muscle cramps, these could be signs that you might have a deficiency. Food rich in it are: pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, and cashews (to name a few).

Moon Milk

You may have been given warm milk as a kid and the same solution can work for you now but with the addition of a few spices and ashwaganda (see above). You can make your own or you can purchase a pre-made powder mixture. 

Tart Cherries

Rich in melatonin, these can be consumed as a dried fruit option or a juice. The only trick is that both can have added sugar so be sure to read the ingredient label carefully to ensure you’re not going to be adding zzz’s at the cost of your waistline.

Tryptophan

Holiday naps are notorious post-turkey consumption as it contains an amino acid that contributes to the production of melatonin and serotonin. Good news is supplements are available year round without having to cook an entire turkey.

Other high quality sources are: canned tuna, milk, oats, and chicken.

Valerian Root

Also known as “nature’s Valium” this herb has antioxidant aspects but most importantly it interacts with GABA receptors which induces an effect similar to a sedative to the nervous system. It’s conveniently available and can be tailored to your taste of a tea, tincture, or supplement.

Vitamin D

A necessary component to supporting the function of your circadian rhythm, this one’s tricky as your body will only produce it when it’s absorbing sunlight. Otherwise, it can be taken as a supplement or found in: fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring), egg yolks, and fish or beef liver.