What are Some Causes of Menopause Insomnia?


Expert’s Name: Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Fatigue, Mood Swings, PMS – The Relationship to Sleep

According to WebMD, “Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.” The following symptoms can characterize insomnia:

  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking (with no evidence of night-time diaper changes or screaming children/animal mishaps)

Insomnia can be classified into primary insomnia (sleep problems not directly related to a health condition) and secondary insomnia (meaning a health condition, medication, or substance is causing you to miss your daily required zzzs). This disorder is classified as chronic if it has persisted for one month or more and occurs 3 or more days out of the week.

Let’s say you’ve already accustomed yourself to a daily bedtime ritual: you hit the pillow at the same time every night, you have bruises on your legs from how dark you’ve made the room (so not to disturb melatonin production), and you’ve even placed the EMF alarm clock so far away from you that you have to squint and get out of bed to see it. All these changes you have made, and still you can’t sleep!

If you’ve made significant changes to your bedtime ritual, and you are still struggling with insomnia, you may want to check with a natural practitioner to see if you have an underlying hormonal, adrenal, thyroid, gut, or other systemic disorder. The causes of insomnia are vast and guidance from a caring practitioner can help you to rule out more serious disorders such as heart issues, respiratory issues, or sleep apnea. According to Jillian Copadice, LAc, some causes of insomnia can include the following:

Acute issues due to: emotional stress, physical discomfort, jet lag

  • Alcohol use
  • Circadian rhythm disorder
  • Central nervous system diseases: e.g.: brain tumor, complex partial seizures
  • Depression
  • Mania or bipolar disorder
  • Medications: e.g.: corticosteroids, benzodiazepine withdrawal, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Menopause – changes in hormone levels
  • Medical illnesses: e.g.: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperthyroidism, hepatic encephalopathy, gastro esophageal reflux disease
  • Poor sleep hygiene: e.g.: too many daytime naps, watching TV in bed
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Stimulants: e.g.: caffeine, nicotine

In my practice, I have had success in helping clients with insomnia through using various modalities such as mind-body medicine, whole food nutrition, herbals, and essential oils. Some common themes I see are hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, and their relation to nutritional deficiencies.

For example, calcium and magnesium deficiency can cause PMS, leg cramps, and rapid thoughts at night. Low potassium and vitamin C can cause various adrenal symptoms which can keep someone revved up when they should be sleeping. Therefore, putting a person on the specific mineral product which fits all their individual symptoms not only address the sleep disorder but also corrects many other symptoms at the same time.

I am often asked about melatonin. Melatonin can be helpful for people, but be cautioned, it is a hormone, and long-time use can cause grogginess and daytime fatigue. If melatonin is working for someone, I like to ask them if they are sleeping in absolute darkness, if not they could be down-regulating their own innate melatonin production. I will also assess their mineral and amino acid status to see if they have the precursors needed to make this hormone.

Don’t just cover up your sleepiness with a natural or synthetic band-aid. Addressing the cause will not only help your insomnia, but also improve your overall health. So, do yourself a favor: when habitual changes and calming exercises don’t work, take an integrative look at the situation, and may you rest peacefully tonight.

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