Meditation and Menopausal Symptoms
22nd Sep, 2020

Meditation and menopausal symptoms


Meditation eases menopausal symptoms and insomnia


Meditation may help ease insomnia and other menopause symptoms, according to a new study published online in Advances in Integrative Medicine (1). 

In a small randomised controlled trial, 47 women with clinical insomnia and menopausal symptoms were randomised into two groups: an intervention group who practised sleep hygiene with daily Raja Yoga meditation (45 minutes/day) and a control group who only practised sleep hygiene.

Raja Yoga meditation is a simple, open-eyed meditation practise that uses the breath as an anchor to elicit physical and mental relaxation (2). Sleep hygiene included a set of behavioural and environmental recommendations intended to promote healthy sleep (e.g. avoid caffeine, exercise regularly, eliminate noise from the sleeping environment, maintain a regular sleep schedule) (3).

The results of the trial demonstrated that menopausal women who practised daily meditation and sleep hygiene for eight weeks had significant improvement in total menopausal symptom scores compared to women in a control group who only practised sleep hygiene. While both groups experienced improvements in the intensity of insomnia symptoms, the meditation group had the greatest improvement in insomnia severity index scores (1).

The onset of menopause is associated with a variety of negative psychological and physical symptoms. Vasomotor symptoms account for up to 80% of symptoms in women entering menopause (4). They are considered at least partially responsible for sleep disorders, which affect 40 - 60% of women during the menopausal transition (5). These symptoms often persist for several years post-menopause with a considerable impact on the quality of life of menopausal women. 

Menopausal symptoms often remain recalcitrant to conventional treatments. Additionally, conventional therapies such as hormone replacement therapy are associated with health risks, and many women are seeking alternative therapies including mind-body and herbal interventions (6).   

Several studies have demonstrated that the practice of meditation by menopausal women improves depression, insomnia and the frequency and duration of vasomotor symptoms (7,8). Meditation also reduces cortisol response and cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women (9).

Meditation may reduce menopausal symptoms by impacting sympathetic nervous system activation, parasympathetic nervous system functioning and stress reactivity (7,10). However, the beneficial effect of meditation on menopausal symptoms is not yet conclusive, due to the complexity of the metabolic, neuroendocrine and psychological effects of meditation (1,9,11).

The current study included a relatively small number of participants over a short period. However, the positive findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting meditation and other mind-body therapies may be useful in managing insomnia and menopausal symptoms. Further studies are warranted to confirm the benefits of daily meditation on menopausal symptoms, insomnia and overall quality of life during the menopausal transition. 

1Portella CF, Sorpreso IC, de Assis AD, de Abreu LC, Junior JM, Baracat EC, de Araujo Moraes SD, Tanaka AC. Meditation as an approach to lessen menopausal symptoms and insomnia in working women undergoing the menopausal transition period: A randomized controlled trial. Adv Integr Med. 2020 Aug 26.
2Neelam SD, Mrunal PS, Sachin SD, Sanjay AB. Does Raja Yoga meditation bring out physiological and psychological general well being among practitioners of it?. International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health. 2012 Dec 1;4(12):2000.
3Stepanski EJ, Wyatt JK. Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep medicine reviews. 2003 Jun 1;7(3):215-25.
4Avis NE, Crawford SL, Green R. Vasomotor Symptoms Across the Menopause Transition: Differences Among Women. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2018;45(4):629-640.
5Pengo MF, Won CH, Bourjeily G. Sleep in women across the life span. Chest. 2018 Jul 1;154(1):196-206.
6Johnson A, Roberts L, Elkins G. Complementary and alternative medicine for menopause. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine. 2019 Mar 12;24.
7Afonso RF, Hachul H, Kozasa EH, de Souza Oliveira D, Goto V, Rodrigues D, Tufik S, Leite JR. Yoga decreases insomnia in postmenopausal women: a randomized clinical trial. Menopause. 2012 Feb 1;19(2):186-93.
8Borjali A, Meschi F, Kakavand A, Zakerihamidi M. Effectiveness of Gratitude meditation on menopausal vasomotor symptoms. Razi Journal of Medical Sciences. 2019 Dec 10;26(9):130-41.
9Walton KG, Fields JZ, Levitsky DK, Harris DA, Pugh ND, Schneider RH. Lowering cortisol and CVD risk in postmenopausal women: a pilot study using the Transcendental Meditation program. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2004 Dec;1032(1):211-5.
10Cramer H, Lauche R, Anheyer D, Pilkington K, de Manincor M, Dobos G, Ward L. Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety. 2018 Sep;35(9):830-43.
11Pascoe MC, Thompson DR, Ski CF. Meditation and Endocrine Health and Wellbeing. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Feb 6.