Menopause Symptoms: Fatigue and Menopause
More than half of menopausal women experience sleep problems that can lead to feelings of extreme tiredness. Put fatigue to bed with these tips and tricks.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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Menopause symptoms can hit you hard, making a good night's sleep but a distant dream and fatigue a part of your everyday life. According to research, as many of 61 percent of post-menopausal women have symptoms of insomnia, and up to 92 percent report feelings of general tiredness.
During menopause, your body circulates less estrogen, triggering changes throughout your system that can interrupt sleep or make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Those changes can take the form of hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, pain, even depression. At its worst, the frequent foot-dragging, eyelid-closing, nap-seeking exhaustion that menopause can cause is aptly called "crashing fatigue."
Fatigue and lack of sleep not only affect quality of life, but can also lead to serious health consequences. Recent research has linked sleep deprivation with high blood pressure, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.
Symptoms of Menopause and Fatigue
As you go through menopause, you may notice various symptoms of fatigue, including:
- Overall weariness; a general feeling of being worn-out
- A lack of energy; a feeling of dragging
- Daytime sleepiness
- A desire for afternoon naps
- Mood changes, especially more "down" days
- Increasing irritability
- Difficulty managing your normal routine
Coping With Menopause and Fatigue
If you are often fatigued, you might try making some lifestyle changes to help address the problem:
- Exercise earlier in the day.Physical activity is great on many levels, but experts at the National Sleep Foundation have found that exercise too close to bedtime can impair sleep. Finish exercising at least three hours before your bedtime.
- Change your eating patterns.Concentrate on healthful but not overly large meals. Eating big meals, especially close to bedtime, can aggravate health concerns, such as heartburn, that might interfere with your sleep.
- Learn relaxation techniques.Meditation, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation techniques can be very helpful, especially if stress or anxiety could be keeping you up.
- Consider herbal remedies.With your doctor's permission, you might try black cohosh, an herb that has been shown to reduce menopausal symptoms for some women, or valerian, a mild, non-addictive herb with a long history as a sleep aid. According to one recent study, 30 percent of women taking valerian experienced an improvement in their sleep quality, compared with only 4 percent taking a placebo.
- Eliminate stimulants.Cut back on caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, all of which are known to interfere with sleep.
- Adjust the temperature.The hot flashes and night sweats that many women experience during menopause can interrupt sleep. Keeping your nighttime environment cooler than you usually do is one way to combat the sensation of heat. Using a fan, light bedding, and light night clothes will help keep the temperature more comfortable.
- Reorganize your work schedule.People who work overnight shifts or alternating shifts, which give them unusual or irregular bedtimes, sometimes have sleep problems. If it's possible to change the hours you work, that might help.
Menopause and Fatigue: When More Help Is Needed
If you have tried some or all of these recommendations without success, talk to your doctor. You might need to be evaluated for other problems, such as low thyroid function or obstructed breathing. And depending on your individual situation, your doctor also can talk to you about other treatments that can help fight fatigue during menopause, including:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT):A recent study in theBritish Medical Journalshowed that women who took HRT experienced a significant reduction in sleep problems.
- Antidepressantssuch as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or venlafaxine (Effexor), can be helpful. However, you and your doctor will need to work together to determine which (if any) would be appropriate for your symptoms.
- Other medicationsfor symptoms such as hot flashes may also be beneficial. Again, you and your doctor can determine whether birth control pills, the hormone progesterone, or blood pressure medications, for instance, might help alleviate your particular symptoms.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)is a treatment that can ease breathing at night in menopausal women with fatigue and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition of disordered nighttime breathing. Research shows that post-menopausal women are anywhere from three to six times more likely to have symptoms of OSA than women who have not yet hit menopause.
Video: Menopause Symptoms & Treatment
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