The Four Best Sleep Aids For Menopause

July 20, 2020.

Many women struggle to get a good night’s rest when they are in perimenopause and menopause. Between fluctuating hormones and general changes that occur in all of us in middle age, our sleep can be compromised. Let’s take a look at the best sleep aids for menopause.

Most women have a hard time with sleep in menopause, and some studies report the over one-fourth of women in menopause will have severe sleep problems with sleep. Difficulty sleeping not only causes night frustration and daytime fatigue, but it is linked with other challenges, including changes in cognitive function and ability to cope. While studies find that hot flashes are one of the biggest complaints, sleep issues can also be caused by depression, anxiety, other health conditions, and environmental factors. 

Lifestyle modification and sleep hygiene can be great tools to help you sleep better at night. But when you have made dietary changes, limited screen time before bed, tried yoga and meditation, and matched your thermostat to your refrigerators, it is high time to consider a sleep aid. Let’s take a look at some of the best over the counter sleep aids for menopause.

#1 Melatonin

Considered one of the best natural sleep aids, melatonin is a sleep hormone that occurs naturally in your body. Melatonin is usually one of the first things people try when they cannot sleep, as there are few side effects (other than the desirable effects of sleepiness).

Melatonin regulates your circadian rhythm by rising at night and falling in the morning. People often use melatonin to help them sleep when they are jetlagged or when they work at night. Large longitudinal studies have found that melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, improves the quality of sleep, and increases your length of sleep. For these reasons, melatonin ranks #1 on our four best sleep aids for menopause list!

#2 Unisom

Available without a prescription, Unisom is one of the best over the counter sleep aids. This sleep aid contains doxylamine, which is an antihistamine. Medications that are antihistamines work by reducing the effects of histamine in your body. Histamine is part of our immune system and is responsible for producing allergic reactions, such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and hives. Drowsiness is a side effect of most histamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Unisom is most helpful when used for short term sleep struggles. For example, some women use Unisom for a short time to manage sleep anxiety due to stress and fear of not being able to sleep. However, many people use it regularly to treat insomnia. It is most beneficial when you take it on a regular schedule before bed and can give your body a sufficient number of hours to sleep, as it can cause significant drowsiness if you wake up too soon after taking it.

Be advised that some antihistamines can leave you with a hangover effect. This can be a problem for women who already struggle with symptoms of brain fog.

Before using Unisom regularly to help you sleep, make sure to check with your doctor. There are certain risk factors with use in people with asthma or glaucoma.

#3 Magnesium

Ranking #3 on our best sleep aids for menopause list, magnesium has become a well-known remedy for just about every ailment, including difficulty sleeping. Indeed, some studies have found that sleeplessness may be the result of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body and is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions, including those that regulate sleep. More and more studies are showing that magnesium not only increases the quality and quantity of your sleep, but it also can help improve other symptoms associated with sleeplessness like depression.

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Try increasing magnesium in your diet before adding a supplement. Sometimes, slight nutritional deficiencies can make significant differences when they are corrected through food intake. To use magnesium as a sleep aid, you will want to take it between 1-2 hours before you fall asleep.

#4 Valerian Root

Commonly found in many menopause supplements, valerian root is an herb native to Europe and Asia that has been used to treat insomnia for decades. While we generally lack good clinical studies that test the efficacy of valerian root for insomnia, over one percent of the U.S. population uses this herb weekly to help them get some sleep. The roots of this herb may also improve anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Incidentally, it may also help reduce hot flashes, as found in one study of menopausal women who took a daily dose of 765 mg of valerian root.

People often take valerian root as a supplement or they may steep it in tea for ten minutes. It is most effective when you take it about an hour before sleep.

Before trying sleep aids, make sure you have made lifestyle adjustments that promote better sleep. Sometimes, subtle changes in our environment and habits can make a big difference in how we sleep.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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