Ep 27. A Closer Look at the Insomnia-Menopause Connection

Apr 17, 2024

Feeling lost in the maze of hormone information and how it relates to insomnia?

Struggling to figure out what’s 
insomnia and what’s disrupted sleep?

Not sure where one ends and the other begins?

This one is tailored for my ladies, but anyone could benefit from a little clarity on the difference between sleep disruption and full-blown insomnia.

Join me as I talk about:

  1. The KEY difference between sleep disruption and insomnia.
  2. How hormonal fluctuations can trigger insomnia.
  3. What to keep in mind as you move forward with your sleep.

By the end of this podcast, you’ll have a better understanding of what constitutes insomnia and what’s just good ol’ fashioned sleep disruption. Keep listening to learn the essential things you need to know as you move through these hormonal transitions in your life.

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Full Transcription Below:

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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP: 

For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights. 

© 2023 - 2024 Beth Kendall

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Navigating Sleep Challenges Through Menopause 

Hello everyone, how’s it going? I hope you’re doing really, really well. Today’s episode is geared mostly towards my ladies, but I think anyone who wants a deeper understanding of insomnia can benefit from what I’m going to share with you today.


So, I get lots and lots of questions from woman about the impact of hormones on sleep and these questions come from women who are still having a cycle, women in perimenopause and women in menopause. Now having gone through this transition in my life not that long ago, I can totally relate to your concerns and some of the confusion around what is actually insomnia, and what is just normal sleep disruption that occurs for most women who go through menopause or perimenopause.


So, I’d like to highlight three main points around today’s topic:


First, I’m going to talk about the key differences between sleep disruption and insomnia.


Next, I’m going to talk about why shifting hormones often becomes the trigger for insomnia.


Lastly, I’m going to share a few tips on what to consider with your sleep as you move through this transition in your life.


Okay, so let’s first talk about sleep disruption versus insomnia because I see these as two different things.


Understanding Sleep Disruption vs. Insomnia


There are so many things throughout the course of life that can disrupt sleep: a noisy neighbor, an injury, a new medication, a stressful event, a new baby - I’ve got a neighbor putting in a new roof today which woke me up way too early. But all of these things can cause some choppy sleep.


Now insomnia, the way that I view it, is a bit different in that there is an element of fear or anxiety attached to not sleeping, okay?


Somewhere along the way, the brain created an association between not sleeping and danger. So then, over time, hyperarousal gets activated whenever there’s a potential threat of not sleeping.


And for anyone out there who has felt the disappearance of sleep the minute you hit the pillow at night, you know exactly what I’m talking about.


But this is what evolves into insomnia where you are dealing with a brain that feels like it has lost its ability to sleep, and sleep becomes something that you’re never really sure you’re going to get at night, or not.


So, how do you know the difference? How do you figure out if you’re dealing with sleep disruption, or insomnia, and can these two co-exist?


Well, when I think about my girlfriends who are currently going through these very real hormonal shifts, sleep is always a hot topic, right. In fact, I would say that sleep is a hot topic almost everywhere, but for my girlfriends, it’s because of night sweats, or maybe they’re dealing with blood sugar issues, or some emotional variability - I know I felt like I was becoming a whole different person when I was going through it, because I would feel just so profoundly irritated at basically nothing and could feel so much rage inside of me to the point that was like: “who am I even right now.” I just didn’t feel like myself at all. And of course, this is different for everyone, but there are some common themes at play and sleep is definitely up there.


Now what I don’t hear during conversations over lunch with my girls is the emotion of fear, okay. There’s no sense of intense fear or hopelessness around the situation with sleep.


Frustration and exhaustion, yes. But fear that it’s never going to go away, or that something is really broken as far as the ability to sleep, or that they’re going to end up in a never-ending cycle of not sleeping, no.


And I find this with the general public as well… when I tell people I’m a sleep coach for people with insomnia, they almost say something like: “Oh, my sleep is so bad right now.” And then I say something like: “Tell me more.”  And then they usually talk about how they don’t sleep well on Sundays, or they don’t sleep well when they have to get up early, or they’re waking up in the middle of the night for longer than they want to.


So, then I usually ask them another question like “How has this impacted your life?” Or how would you describe your current relationship with sleep? And this is when I usually know if they are dealing with some fear around sleep, or just some normal sleep disruption.


Because a lot of times when I ask that second question, they don’t really understand what I’m getting at because they haven’t started putting a lot of effort into sleep yet and they haven’t started to alter their life around the status of their sleep. So, then I usually say something like “Oh, this is very normal, and your body will get you back on track if you just ignore it.”


And I do that because it’s my hope that don’t lose trust in their sleep and develop insomnia.


Which leads me to the second thing I want to talk about today which is how menopause, or perimenopause can become the precipitating factor that leads to insomnia, which again, I define as a fear of not sleeping.


Hormonal Changes as a Trigger for Insomnia


So, when sleep starts getting disrupted due to changing hormones, it’s very normal to go to the doctor and get some help. And then maybe the doctor assigns you a diagnostic code for insomnia and prescribes a sleeping pill or maybe this is the point where you go on Amazon and start googling herbal supplements for menopause. And then due to the trusty algorithms, you start getting inundated with information everywhere about what you should do for your sleep. 


And this is point where sleep transitions from being a relatively passive process to something we try to achieve.


And then heaven forbid you end up in a Facebook group for insomnia where you will hear every scary thing possible that could ever happen with your sleep. And then before you know it you have developed an unconscious fear of not sleeping.


And back to my previous point about sleep disruption and insomnia and can they co-exist at the same time, I would say yes. Because while these are two separate things, you can have both going on. And for the person who already has insomnia, or some fear or anxiety about not sleeping, something like menopause can really throw you into some panic.


I was very grateful that by the time I went through this myself, that I was pretty much over insomnia, and it didn’t send me spiraling the way that I’m sure it probably would have otherwise.


So, how can we meet this? How can we move through these hormonal shifts in a helpful way.


Embracing Change and Finding Support


Well, I think what can be helpful in this situation is to just normalize some disrupted sleep during menopause. Most of the women I know do experience this to some degree, so it’s definitely not a unique situation and it doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong.


The next thing is just having an education and awareness of the difference between these two struggles. And if you want to do a deeper dive into this, I did a podcast, I think it was episode number 19 and it’s all about sleep optimization versus insomnia, so it goes further into the difference between these two conversations.


And the last thing I’ll offer in terms of moving through this time in your life is to get some support for yourself in whatever way you need it. So that could be talking to someone who really understands hormones, I know there are so many of my old nutritional therapy colleagues that specialize in this and understand it from a deep level, or implement a self-care practice, or get a coach or join a program.


Reflections on Menopause


I personally thought the transition through menopause was a pretty wild ride. And I was actually taken a little off guard because I didn’t hear a lot of women talking about the mental and emotional component of the process. On some level, I even felt like it was a bit of a grieving process, and I was questioning my place in society and even my own mortality. So, it was a much more psychologically difficult experience for me than it was physical.


So, if any of my ladies out there are going through something like this right now, you are not alone, my friend. You are not alone.


Alright, so that wraps up today’s episode. I hope that something here was helpful. If you need some support with your sleep, come join us in the mentorship. I personally think life is way too short to be dealing with something insomnia which is I created the program I wish I’d had when I was going through it.


Until next time, I’m Beth Kendall and this is the Mind. Body. Sleep. Podcast. Bye for now…

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