Last month we talked about some of the disincentives to sex, and fatigue was one of the top three. As you may know from your own experience, getting a good night’s sleep during or after menopause is often a challenge. Hormonal fluctuations are often the culprits; lack of progesterone and estrogen can bring on night sweats and hot flashes, and who can sleep with all that going on! (Chances are your partner can’t either–a double whammy.)
Insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are also very common among menopausal women. In fact, in one study, more than 40 percent of post-menopausal women polled reported waking up frequently during the night.
Lack of sleep can really take its toll on you, physically, mentally, and emotionally. You walk around like a zombie the next day and don’t feel like doing much of anything, least of all having sex. And if it becomes chronic, happening night after night, it can create a vicious cycle of constant fatigue that can have some serious repercussions, including:
- Inability to concentrate
- Reduced memory function
- Increased irritability
- Problems in relationships
- Becoming accident-prone
- Tendency to overeat
Chronic sleep disorders can also lead to depression and anxiety, creating a whole new set of problems that can be difficult to treat—and that can further handicap your sex life. That’s why it’s so important to do something about it right away.
First, try some of these steps, which many sleep experts recommend:
- Go to bed at the same time every night and get up the same time each morning.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep—and sex (and having sex just before sleep might help, too!).
- Get 30 minutes of exercise during the day (but not after 8 p.m.).
- Limit fluid intake in the evening.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine (many sodas have caffeine).
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditating or visualizing yourself in a calm, restful setting.
If none of these techniques work, talk with your doctor about the possibility of taking medication. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking the non-sleep cycle. There are some good over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies available, too. If the problem persists, you might consider going to a sleep clinic.
Just don’t allow a sleep disorder to rob you of the things you love to do. Keep trying until you find a solution that works for you.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.