Women and Sleep Loss: Some Things to Consider

As women age, their bodies undergo numerous changes, and one common issue reported by over 50% of women is difficulty with sleeping.1 Sleep is a crucial time for your health, especially for the brain, as it's during sleep that your brain consolidates memories, eliminates unnecessary information, and repair damaged cells.  Without sufficient sleep, these vital processes can be disrupted, potentially increasing the risk of cognitive decline.2  

Today, we'll explore key factors women should consider regarding sleep loss and discuss actionable steps to improve sleep quality during this stage of life. 

When Does Sleep Loss Become an Issue for Women? 

“While sleep quality naturally declines with age, menopause can add fuel to the fire, turning what would have been a gradual process into a swift kick towards sleep deprivation.” -Dr. Lisa Mosconi, Chapter 4 of The Menopause Brain 

As women transition into perimenopause, typically in their mid-forties, sleep issues may become more prevalent.  Studies indicate that between 1/3 to 1/2 of women report experiencing sleep disturbances during the ages of 40-64. There are various aspects of life that change during menopause which may disrupt the body's circadian rhythm, the natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or achieving restorative sleep.  Read on to understand these factors.  

Women and Sleep Loss: Some Things to Consider

“Menopause is a notorious sleep disruptor; it can cause night sweats, restlessness, sleep apnea, or other conditions that interfere with you getting restorative sleep.” -Dr. Mary Claire, Chapter 9 of The New Menopause  

Hormonal Changes:  Fluctuations in reproductive hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen, profoundly affect sleep in women.  Progesterone promotes sleep by stimulating specific brain receptors, while estrogen enhances various neurotransmitter functions involved in sleep regulation.  Estrogen also improves REM sleep, total sleep time, and reduces sleep latency.  Both of these hormone levels drop during menopause, which may disrupt sleep patterns and quality.4  

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats:  The onset of hot flashes and night sweats, common symptoms during menopause, can also be a factor.  These experiences often lead to nighttime awakenings, worsening sleep disturbances and contributing to sleep disorders.1  Research indicates that women experiencing moderate-to-severe hot flashes are nearly 3 times more likely to report waking up during nighttime more frequently.1  Moreover, night sweats associated with hot flashes have been found to interrupt sleep quality.  Studies have linked hot flashes to sleep disorders and insomnia, with the decrease in estrogen levels triggering these symptoms by activating the central sympathetic nervous system, which is involved in the body's response to stress.5 

Mood Issues:  During menopause, women often experience mood changes due to hormonal shifts, such as anxiety and depression.  These mood disturbances can affect sleep quality, with higher levels of anxiety and depression linked to poorer sleep.  Factors like work stress and family responsibilities can worsen anxiety and depression, leading to physiological changes that disrupt sleep.  This includes increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.5 

Sleep Disorders:  Sleep disorders can become more common during menopause, affecting up to a staggering 79% of women in this phase.  Among the various sleep disorders, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are the most common.  Studies have found that up to 67% of postmenopausal women have OSA, which is often linked to factors such as weight gain due to metabolic changes.  Additionally, RLS was reported in approximately 64% of postmenopausal women, causing discomfort and disruptions in sleep patterns.6  For more information on sleep disorders, you can explore this article.  

Caregiving:  Caregiving, a responsibility shouldered by approximately 66% women to their family members, can significantly affect sleep patterns.  Studies reveal that caregiving for a family member with dementia can lead to sleep disturbances in as many as 70% of caregivers.  Women caregivers, in particular, report experiencing poorer sleep quality, increased sleep disturbance, and greater difficulty in daily routines due to daytime sleepiness.  Factors such as role overload and lack of support can worsen the challenges faced by caregivers, further impacting their sleep quality.7 

“You may not only be losing sleep because of midlife changes! You may also not be sleeping because your loved one is up at night. Night may be your only free time to get chores done so you stay up late, or the anxiety of caring is keeping you up. Maintenance of sleep schedule is really difficult for care partners, so you may want to look into hired care at night so that you can get some more sleep. Also, if your loved one goes to an adult day program or you can have someone come and have tea and visit with them, getting a break to take a short nap (10-30 minutes) during the day before 3pm can be a big help to improve brain function, even if your sleep schedule is less than ideal.” - Rev. Katie Norris, Founder of Creative Connections Dementia 

Steps for a More Restful Night: 

“To get back on track, set up and stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night; get up at the same time, too. Kick the pets out of the bedroom. Think of the hour before bedtime as "winding down time." Turn off electronic devices, do something relaxing like stretching or reading a book, and dim the lights. Taking a hot bath or shower immediately before going to bed can also be sleep inducing. It also helps to avoid eating or drinking at least three hours before bed; when the body is digesting food, the brain isn't able to shift into sleep mode. And it's worth noting that women often become more sensitive to alcohol at midlife, a common culprit if one wakes up at  3 am.  Going alcohol-free can often do wonders to improve midlife women's sleep.” -NeuroReserve Medical Advisor Dr. Annie Fenn, Founder of The Brain Health Kitchen 

Sleep loss can pose significant challenges, leaving us feeling less motivated and functioning poorly in our day-to-day routines.  However, it's important to recognize there are actionable steps you can take to improve your sleep quality, particularly if you start them early in the menopause transition.  Let’s explore a few.  

Exercise:  Exercise isn't just beneficial for brain health; it's also a powerful tool for menopausal women seeking to improve their sleep.  Research has shown that postmenopausal women who engage in both resistive (think lifting weights) and aerobic exercise (like walking or swimming) experience significant improvements in insomnia and sleep quality.8, 9  Exercise promotes sleep through several mechanisms, including reducing anxiety and depression, regulating body temperature, and influencing the circadian rhythm.10 

Sleep Environment:  Creating the right sleep environment is also important for quality rest.  Ensure your room is at a comfortable temperature and invest in cozy sheets.  If light disrupts your sleep, consider using eye masks or blackout curtains.  Keep noise levels low and eliminate distractions.  For more sleep hygiene tips, you can download our free e-guide here.  Creating a calming sleep environment sets the stage for a restful night's sleep, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. 

Food Choices:  The foods we eat can significantly impact our sleep quality, especially during the menopause transition.  Research suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods can have protective effects on sleep, while high sugar and saturated fat intake may have the opposite effects.  Eating foods from the Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower menopausal symptom severity and better sleep quality.  Certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and a combination of specific vitamins and minerals have shown promise in improving sleep problems among postmenopausal women.11 

Improving sleep quality during menopause often requires a multifaceted approach.  While it can be challenging to adopt multiple new habits simultaneously, incorporating a combination of dietary changes and other strategies can yield great outcomes.  For those struggling to maintain consistency with dietary modifications, a daily nutritional supplement can provide valuable support.  Unlike meal planning, taking a daily supplement requires no preparation time, making it a convenient choice for busy individuals who still want to stay on top of their nutrition.  

Our brain health supplement, RELEVATE, is formulated with 17 nutrients from the Mediterranean and MIND diets, to support brain health and also helps with improving your sleep quality.  About 42% of RELEVATE users notice improvements in sleep and energy.12  To learn more about RELEVATE, click here.


  1. Baker, F. C., de Zambotti, M., Colrain, I. M., & Bei, B. (2018). Sleep problems during the menopausal transition: prevalence, impact, and management challenges. Nature and Science of Sleep, 10, 73. https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S125807 
  2. Wong, R., & Lovier, M. A. (2023). Sleep Disturbances and Dementia Risk in Older Adults: Findings From 10 Years of National U.S. Prospective Data. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 64(6), 781–787. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2023.01.008 
  3. Smith, R. L., Flaws, J. A., & Mahoney, M. M. (2018). Factors associated with poor sleep during menopause: results from the Midlife Women’s Health Study. Sleep Medicine, 45, 98–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SLEEP.2018.01.012 
  4. Tandon, V., Sharma, S., Mahajan, A., Mahajan, A., & Tandon, A. (2022). Menopause and Sleep Disorders. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 13(1), 26. https://doi.org/10.4103/JMH.JMH_18_22 
  5. Zhou, Q., Wang, B., Hua, Q., Jin, Q., Xie, J., Ma, J., & Jin, F. (2021). Investigation of the relationship between hot flashes, sweating and sleep quality in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women: the mediating effect of anxiety and depression. BMC Women’s Health, 21(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12905-021-01433-Y/TABLES/4 
  6. Salari, N., Hasheminezhad, R., Hosseinian-Far, A., Rasoulpoor, S., Assefi, M., Nankali, S., Nankali, A., & Mohammadi, M. (2023). Global prevalence of sleep disorders during menopause: a meta-analysis. Sleep & Breathing = Schlaf & Atmung, 27(5), 1. https://doi.org/10.1007/S11325-023-02793-5 
  7. Byun, E., Lerdal, A., Gay, C. L., & Lee, K. A. (2016). How Adult Caregiving Impacts Sleep: a Systematic Review. Current Sleep Medicine Reports, 2(4), 191. https://doi.org/10.1007/S40675-016-0058-8 
  8. Mansikkamäki, K., Raitanen, J., Nygård, C. H., Heinonen, R., Mikkola, T., Tomás, E., & Luoto, R. (2012). Sleep quality and aerobic training among menopausal women--a randomized controlled trial. Maturitas, 72(4), 339–345. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.MATURITAS.2012.05.003 
  9. Massoud, E. F., ElDeeb, A. M., Samir, S. H., & Shehata, M. M. A. (2023). Effect of resistive exercise on insomnia and sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Bulletin of Faculty of Physical Therapy 2023 28:1, 28(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/S43161-023-00124-Z 
  10. Zhao, M., Sun, M., Zhao, R., Chen, P., & Li, S. (2023). Effects of exercise on sleep in perimenopausal women: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. EXPLORE, 19(5), 636–645. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.EXPLORE.2023.02.001  
  11. Verde, L., Barrea, L., Vetrani, C., Frias-Toral, E., Chapela, S. P., Jayawardena, R., de Alteriis, G., Docimo, A., Savastano, S., Colao, A., & Muscogiuri, G. (2022). Chronotype and Sleep Quality in Obesity: How Do They Change After Menopause? Current Obesity Reports, 11(4), 254. https://doi.org/10.1007/S13679-022-00479-9 
  12. Survey conducted by NeuroReserve in March 2022. 
Back to Blog