The insomnia and menopause connection seems pretty strong, considering the numbers of women who find themselves unable to sleep for days, weeks and even months… often for the first time in their life.
It would make sense that, considering everything that happens during the transition to menopause, insomnia is just another experience to add to the mix, right? Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not.
There’s no doubt that menopause can be a trying time of life for many women, filled with physical challenges and all that goes with them. Hot flashes, hormonal fluctuations, changes in body shape, changes in skin, hair, weight, nervous system, energy levels, libido… well, it seems like there’s no end to the physical manifestations of reaching the “end of your fertility,” as the medical professionals are fond of calling it.
But then there are the emotional aspects, and that’s where things can get more interesting…
Insomnia and menopause, as I mentioned in the first part of this series, can often be directly caused by physical discomforts peculiar to this transitional time.
Menopause can also be an emotionally challenging time.
Yet it’s uncertain and debatable just how much the hormonal disruptions and changes are responsible for that.
Some experts — and some women themselves — want to blame everything on either hormones or the aging process. Everything is rooted in the physical transition — irritability, depression, anger, anxiety. Whatever can’t be directly attributed to the drop in estrogen and progesterone is carried over to “just getting older.”
But others point out that the insomnia and menopause connection may have emotional causes that are separate from the hormonal aspect. They concede that many women are experiencing challenging events in their lives at this point, such as dealing with the adolescence or young adulthood of their children (if they have them)… caring for their aging parents… responding to the general cultural belief that women over 50 are not as desirable, sexy, feminine or exciting as younger women… and wondering what matters most to them and where they should direct their energy and talents at this unique time of life.
Of course it’s easy to lump everyone in a particular age group together and pretend they all have the same life experiences and problems. But we know that emotional causes of insomnia are entirely individual and almost infinite in number!
Insomnia and Menopause Is a Link that Can Be Broken
Just because you happen to experience insomnia and menopause at roughly the same time, does not mean that they are truly linked. If worries, concerns, thoughts and feelings are keeping you awake at night, it may have nothing to do with hormones at all.
This is not to discount the physical realities of menopause. But if you have done everything you can to help balance yourself physically, but are still suffering from sleepless nights, it’s time to take a different approach.
That means you keep up the physical care and nurturing of your body… but you also begin to address the mental and emotional causes of your insomnia. Forget about menopause for a moment. What can you do to help yourself relax and let go of all stress, worries and mental restlessness that keeps you tossing and turning at night?
Now, of course this site is about insomnia, not menopause. And that is why I recommend the self help tutorial to begin the cognitive behavioral therapy program that is so effective for dealing with insomnia.
Menopause — A Positive Transition
Worries about getting older and giving up your fertility are real, of course and I would be the last to scoff at them. It doesn’t mean you have to give in to this mindset, though. This is a very beating-yourself-up approach, when you look at it. What value does it have? What does it contribute to your health or happiness?
Menopause can be a time of positive growth, freedom, joy and confidence. Many women throw off a lot of mental “baggage” at this period, caring less what “society” thinks of them and caring more about living life to the fullest and discovering new aspects of themselves that have been hidden away.
Menopause can be scary, but also exhilarating. It can be depressing but also introspective in a positive way. It can be irritating but also enlightening. Who do you suppose decides what menopause will be like? Your doctor? Your hormones? Your friends and family? No, you do, of course.
Despite being menopausal and dealing with a lot of physical annoyances and body changes I’m not happy about, I’m in the best emotional shape I’ve ever been in — which admittedly isn’t saying that much, considering my lifelong anxiety and depressive episodes, but it’s still a triumph for me, and I am determined to continue my improvement. Best of all, I’m sleeping pretty well despite some challenges. That’s why I know it is possible.