Menopause, Melatonin and Sleep

Menopause, Melatonin and Sleep

“When I wake up, I am reborn.”                                                                                                                                                                                                          – Mahatma Gandhi


Just like the trees go dormant in winter so they can blossom and grow in the spring, people require one third of their lives to sleep so they can repair and restore their bodies.


In menopause, getting enough sleep is even more difficult. Low estrogen; hot flashes; trips to the bathroom; anxiety; depression; restless leg syndrome and more It’s a wonder any woman gets enough zzz’s.


Estrogen is very helpful for sleep, but many either will not or cannot take it. So they look for other options.


Prescription sleep aids can be addictive, and typically shouldn’t be used for more than two weeks. So people turn to over the counter options.


One of the most popular is the supplement melatonin. It’s the fourth most popular natural supplement used in the US and the level of melatonin in each supplement is variable. Melatonin used for insomnia and improving sleep for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles in shift-workers, and for adjusting day-night cycles. It’s also commonly used by women in menopause to help them sleep.


In the body, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Darkness causes melatonin to increase in the body and it helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycles. Years ago I published a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showing that melatonin levels drop just as the hormone LH, which triggers ovulation, is increasing so it is tied in with the rhythm of the human egg’s release.


A study was published in the journal Menopause in 812 menopausal women to find out how effective melatonin is in helping women in menopause sleep. The study was a summary of eight earlier done studies so that a large number of women could be evaluated. Doses ranged from 1 to 5 mg and were taken from 3 to 12 months. Here’s what they found out.


In four of the studies, melatonin treatment didn’t help sleep quality, and in three of the studies, melatonin didn’t help any general menopause symptom.


But what about melatonin for menopause symptoms?


Melatonin helped, but did not solve, the psychological, sexual or hot flash issues. It didn’t help anxiety, depression, weight or estradiol levels.


So what’s the bottom line: Melatonin may be of some help sleep in some menopausal women and may have some benefit on some of the menopause symptoms, but it isn’t an all in one silver bullet for sleep problems and insomnia in menopause. It’s worth a try for a three month period of time. But if you use it and aren’t getting the improvement you need, talk with your healthcare provider for other options to help you. Sleep is too important for your general health and well being to stay up all night worrying about it. Get the help you need to wake up reborn.



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