Menopause and Sleep Problems

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on November 25, 2019

Many women going through menopause experience insomnia, an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. This is a normal side effect of menopause and is usually caused by symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.

I Am Not Sleeping Well at Night. Do I Have Insomnia?

Symptoms of insomnia can include one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Non-refreshing sleep (feeling tired upon waking and throughout the day)

Will Drinking Alcohol or Warm Milk Help Me to Fall Asleep?

Alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep, but it should not be used as a sleep aid, because it has a rebound effect. It can disturb your sleep later and can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.

Milk contains a substance called tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin helps control sleep patterns, appetite, pain, and other functions. Milk does not contain enough tryptophan to change sleep patterns, but drinking a glass of milk before bed may help you relax.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

There are many steps you can take to get yourself sleeping soundly through the night. Here are some tips.

  • Do not nap during the day.
  • Exercise daily. However, be sure to avoid vigorous exercise three hours or less before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine throughout the day.
  • Keep your bedroom cool to prevent night sweats.
  • Do not go to bed until you are tired.
  • Take a warm bath or shower at bedtime.
  • Do not watch television, eat, or read in bed. Do these activities in another room until you feel sleepy.
  • Follow the same bedtime routine each night.
  • Avoid using sleeping pills.

When lifestyle changes such as these fail to remedy insomnia, talk to your doctor. There may be other options that can help. They may be able to prescribe temporary medicine to help you sleep and get you sleeping regularly. In addition, your doctor can rule out other conditions that may be causing your sleep problem. Medical and psychiatric conditions can contribute to insomnia.For example, if depression is causing your sleep problems, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant.

If your insomnia is a result of menopausal symptoms, you may also want to talk to your doctor about taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for a short period of time. HRT may help alleviate symptoms that are causing your sleep problem.