One of the most common symptoms of the menopause is sleeplessness, night sweats and for some, insomnia. There’s no sugar coating that the transition can wreak havoc on our sleep. We’re left feeling exhausted, low mood, have difficulty concentrating and are ‘zombies’ in the words of some ladies who have submitted questions through our contact form to menopause expert, Kathy Abernethy.
It’s an unfortunate truth, but, rest assured there are plenty of things you can do to get more sleep at night. See below some tips, which may help.
1. Encourage growth of your ‘sleep hormone’
“Boosting our melatonin levels can improve the depth, quality and pattern of sleep. We produce most melatonin between 10pm and 2am, so aim to be in bed before midnight. Even the light on an alarm clock will disrupt this hormone production, so make sure your bedroom is completely dark.” Explains Dr Sohere Roked, GP and hormone expert at the Omniya MediClinic.
2. Avoid tech before bed
“Smartphones, laptops, and tablets all emit blue rays that can disrupt your sleep, so switch devices off 30 minutes before bed” says Dr Roked. Instead take a warm bath, read a book or meditate. For evening exercise try yoga, pilates, or walking. Intensive cardio will boost energy during the day and help you sleep, but it spikes levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so best to be avoided 4 hours before bed. Also, cut out caffeine after midday as it can stay in your system for 8 hours.
3. At night, rest in bed
“When the menopause may trigger insomnia, it often is the anxiety and fear associated with sleeplessness that amplifies to the problem”, explains Dr Guy Meadows, clinical director of the sleep school and sleep expert for Bensons for Beds. The traditional advice is to get out of bed and do something relaxing like read a book, but when you get up it’s recorded by your internal body clock and becomes more of a habit. Your body will tell you “Hey it’s 2am, time to get up!” There’s a lot of benefit of simply resting at night so we recommend staying in bed and using mindfulness to ease anxiety instead”.
4. Escape from reality
“The more you worry about not sleeping, the less you will sleep”, says Dr Meadows. “Mindfulness can help loosen the pressure of unhelpful thinking patterns, enabling us to observe thoughts without actually going in too deep”. Take a few minutes to concentrate on something that brings you back to the present, the movement of your breath or the touch or feeling of the bed sheets on your body. Realise and accept that your mind will wonder then choose to let go of that thought and come back to the present, where you can focus on your breath again. It’s not designed to make you fall asleep, but to let go of thoughts that are making your anxious and worried. You can even practice during the day for about 10 minutes. You don’t have to lie in a dark room, you can just do it on the bus, train, or even when you are out walking.”
5. Beware of your alcohol intake
“Alcohol is mostly associated to increase the speed in which we fall asleep explains Dr Meadows. “It takes an hour to metabolise one unit. So if you have a glass of wine at 7pm, it will be well out of your system by 9:30pm and so therefore won’t impact upon your sleep. If you drink the bottle then you will probably feel the consequences.” Dr Roked adds: “Alcohol is also a vasodilator – it opens up the blood vessels, disrupting your sleep by making hot flushes worse.”
6. Try a midday power nap
“People believe daytime napping will weaken the attempts to sleep at night but, like an overtired child forcing yourself to stay awake can actually lead to a more disruptive sleep at night”, says Dr Meadows. “Try a power nap of up to 30 mins between midday and 3pm, when we have a natural slump. It doesn’t matter if you sleep, just use the time to rest. It can improve anxiety and boost energy”.
7. Wear light cotton clothing in bed
During the menopause, women may suffer from night sweats, to help this, wear light cotton pyjamas in bed and ensure that your bedroom is cool and airy and you have light thin sheets so that you can kick off your duvet when you feel hot!
8. Use lavender
A simple spritz of lavender spray will make the world a difference, reveals Debbie McGee – She said “Spraying my pillow with lavender oil or lavender spray. You can feel it when you breathe in, you can feel that it makes you calm.”
9. Cutting down on the caffeine in the evenings
Caffeine, the drug found in hot drinks like tea and coffee and also many energy drinks like Red Bull. Caffeine activates the central nervous system, causing temporary stimulating effects. If you drink it in moderation and not right before bed then this will prevent sleep problems, irritability and nervousness.
10. Finally exercise regularly
Exercise is not as easy as it used to be in your younger years, as it is when you reach midlife. So it important to keep active as much as possible. Experts from the National Sleep Foundation have said that it tends to help prevent insomnia too, which is very common during the menopause.
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Take a look below at many other people talking about this exact subject, don’t hesitate to seek advice, alot of women just like you are suffering with insomnia due to the menopause.
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