Almost everyone has trouble falling or staying asleep once in a while or wakes up tired in spite of having spent “enough” hours in bed. However, insomnia often increases in women who are going through menopause. Nearly one-fourth of all midlife women reported that they have trouble sleeping, twice as many as young women. You may take longer to fall asleep, wake up one or more times during the night, or sleep lighter and more fitfully than when you were younger.
Sleep problems may be the result of hormonal changes, but may also relate to psychological stress. If stress and depression are accompanying this life change for you, your sleep patterns will probably be different.
Other possible factors include physical changes such as night sweats, muscle cramps, and aches and pains. If you suspect any of these might be at the root of your sleep problem, turn to the sections of this book that deal with these problems. And don’t discount an unsatisfying sex life as a possible contributing factor.
A lot of menopausal women live with men who are experiencing prostate problems at this time.
These men need to get up to go to the bathroom many times a night and may disturb the sleep of their partners. If the guy you sleep with keeps you up at night by his disturbed sleep, try to move into another room or let him know that there are very successful natural treatments for benign prostate enlargement and that he might consider.
In natural medicine systems such as homeopathy, sleep is one of the important components a person needs to restore and maintain physical and mental health. New studies show that chronic sleep deprivation which may be due to insomnia affects your immune system, slows healing, and limits your ability to stay alert and concentrate. Inadequate sleep may be responsible for poor productivity, irritability, and a large portion of accidents on the road, on the job, and at work.
It is only now discovering how important healthy sleep is and how widely requirements vary from individual to individual. Some people can thrive on 4 or 5 hours while others need 9 or even more hours to feel and do their best. Insomnia can become a chronic and infuriatingly vicious cycle.
The loss of sleep you get, the less well you are able to deal with stress, and the more difficult it is to fall or stay asleep. If you need an alarm clock to wake up every day, or awaken exhausted rather than refreshed, don’t delay in setting things straight.
Although low energy and fatigue are often viewed as inevitable signs of aging, a healthy body at any age supports a healthy, active mind.
Fatigue and low energy are often signs of our bodies crying out for help and are frequently helped by nutritional support and botanical agents such as herbs.
Some of the physical reasons for low energy and fatigue are insomnia. Many women report sleep disturbances around the time of menopause triggered by hormonal changes that affect the sleep center of the brain.
Other reasons for frequent waking in the menopausal years are the need to urinate more often, and the night sweats.
Much fatigue and low energy in middle-aged and aging people come from mental stress, overstimulation, overwork, depression, or under-stimulation. Just as our bodies can get too much or little nourishment, we can think of these factors as malnourishment of the spirit. We need to feel nourished and emotionally rewarded for the efforts we make in our daily lives. There are many reasons why middle-aged women may not feel this satisfaction and we can only mention a few of them here.
One reason is that so much of what we do as middle-aged women take care of others. Our jobs are by no means done just because our kids may be out of the house (indeed, they may be home, again, given the expense these days of maintaining their own households and the difficulty of finding well-paying jobs).
We may also be caring for our elderly or infirm parents. Even if not physically taking care of them, we have a great many decisions to make about their welfare. It still seems to be true that the daughters and daughters-in-law, not the sons and sons-in-law, take over these responsibilities.
Of course, physically caring for elderly relatives would make you physically tired, but it’s more than that. It could be emotionally draining if you are worrying again about someone else’s well-being and neglecting your own needs, just as you probably did when your kids were young. The difference is that now you feel it’s your turn to get something back for those earlier years of self-sacrifice and physical labour, but it seems not to be happening. Making matters worse, many midlife women are joining the “sandwich generation” juggling between taking care of both elderly parents and their adult children.
There are so many other things that also might cause stress in the middle years. Maybe a woman worrying about a deteriorating relationship with a spouse or partner after many years together. Maybe financial worries and lack of employment opportunities or underemployment are getting you down. Perhaps health worries or fears of possible future ill-health bother you.
Loss of self-esteem is another significant cause of low energy at this time of life. It hardly seems worthwhile to drag yourself around if you feel no one cares about you or appreciates who you are and what you stand for.
Another tragic and insidious cause of low energy is lack of stimulation. Because they have to care for an ill spouse or aged parents, some women simply take themselves out of circulation. Or they may drop out because they’re afraid to meet new people or take on the additional responsibilities that might be a part of joining a new organization or social group.
Unfortunately, some people move to a new town for their retirement years, only to discover they’re bored out of their minds in this new low-stress place. Boredom can be a sign of depression. Or they may find that they don’t much like the new crowd and miss their old pals more than they dreamed they would.
The effects of all this may be that you just don’t do enough and can’t get excited by your life. Your energy runs low because none of us outgrows the need for stimulation and excitement. We can’t thrive and our brains won’t maintain their synapses if we’re just sitting there in front of the TV or keeping ourselves out of the loop.
As you make your way through menopause, you may find yourself going to the bathroom more frequently or even leaking small amounts of urine. As your estrogen level decreases, your bladder tissues begin to change. They may become thin, dry, or inelastic. Pelvic and abdominal muscles which help support the bladder often weaken, especially if you’ve had several children. Any one or a combination of these circumstances can result in incontinence, that is, the sudden and involuntary release of small amounts of urine.
About a third of all women over forty experience stress incontinence, at some point in their lives. In this form, a physical reaction–such as coughing, sneezing, jumping, or laughing at a friend’s joke–causes an involuntary release of urine. Another common type of incontinence in women is urged incontinence, in which you frequently feel the need to urinate, sometimes so strongly that you don’t always make it to the bathroom in time.
Some women become extremely embarrassed and self-conscious about incontinence; it becomes an inconvenience and forces them to change their day-to-day lives to avoid circumstances that provoke it. Happily, there’s a better alternative. There are a number of safe and natural ways by which you can prevent or reduce incontinence, and the disruptive effect that it can have on your lifestyle.
Although some women going through menopause find their libido takes an upswing, about half say they feel less lusty than they used to. Estrogen may be at least in part to blame. But our minds and bodies are not that simple.
Another hormone, progesterone, may also be involved.
A third hormone, testosterone, which is secreted by the ovaries and adrenal glands, is the principal-agent influencing female sexual desire.
Testosterone is considered a “male” hormone because men produce much higher levels. However, research shows that when levels of testosterone in women decrease after menopause, sexual drive also may decrease. Testosterone is still produced in lesser amounts in aging and elderly women’s ovaries and adrenal glands.
After a hysterectomy, many women say they find sex is less pleasurable.
There are psychological and physiological reasons for this. In a total hysterectomy, removal of the ovaries also removes a woman’s primary source of testosterone and estrogen.
And with her uterus and cervix gone, she has lost a body organ that is a source of sexual pleasure when it is stroked and pressed against by, for instance, a penis or a finger.
There are many other reasons for a lack of sexual desire or arousal difficulties besides hormonal changes and hysterectomy. Loss of sexual desire may be a sign of a physical problem and should always be discussed with your health care professional. Fatigue is a frequent cause of decreased sexual drive, and fatigue is the end product of many physical problems and diseases.
The psychological conditions that negatively affect a woman’s sex drive are primarily depression and anxiety. Loss of sexual desire may be one of the few symptoms that indicate a masked depression. Anxiety is much more overt and nearly everyone knows when they’re anxious, but not everyone knows that one of the ramifications of anxiety can be a loss of libido.