The years from peri- to post-menopause are when women report the most sleeping problems, says the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, as many as 61 percent report symptoms of—you guessed it—insomnia.
So many things come together at once to cause these sleeping issues.
Hot flushes—also known as night sweats when they occur during sleep—start with a rise in your body temperature and end with you throwing off the covers and all your clothes . They not only can interrupt your sleep, but may keep you from getting back to sleep. Did you know the average hot flush could last up to three minutes? A few of these each night will affect your sleep cycle.
Mood disorders that come along with hormonal shifts (remember PMS?) can keep your mind racing at inopportune times. And just the anxiety of knowing that you haven’t slept well since who-knows-when can set you into a cascade of more anxiety and worry that you won’t sleep again tonight. Also, it’s inevitable that you will have other things crowding your mind with worry, among them aging parents, chronic pain, your career, your children or your relationship.
Don’t discount those late-night trips to the bathroom, either. As the bladder muscle ages along with the rest of you, its capacity to store urine diminishes.
Sleep for Menopausal Times
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this widespread issue, just knowing what the alternatives are can help you rest better (or at least anticipate a good night’s sleep):
1. Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT* )
2. Phytoestrogens in over-the-counter nutritional products such as black cohosh, extract of red clover and ginseng
3. Sleep-promoting medication
*– the repacement name for HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
Not for you? There’s a lot more to try:
1. Temperature: The ideal sleeping temperature is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit 18 degrees Celsius.
2. Caffeine: Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. Fact: Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, meaning that six hours after your last cup, half the caffeine is still in your body.
3. Alcohol: Avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime; rather than it being a sedative, it is a central nervous system suppressant and becomes a stimulant in quantities.
4. Block out light: Keep your bedroom as dark as possible; wear an eye mask if you must. Even those LED lights from your alarm clock are strong enough to seep through your thin eyelids and disrupt your sleep.
5. Dress for success: Wear loose-fitting, breathable garments, like cotton. Or nothing at all.
6. Get rid of the electronics: Computers, TV, iPads, etc., are all sleep-stealers. Aside from stimulating your brain, the blue light they emit can interfere with a solid night’s sleep.
7. Eat right: A bedtime snack high in carbohydrates but low in protein (like whole grain crackers with some peanut or almond butter) speeds the amino acid tryptophan to the brain, which in turn is converted to serotonin (a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter).
8. Exercise (and if you do, exercise more): A brand-new study just published in the journal Menopause says that higher levels of routine daily physical activity may be a key to a better night’s sleep for menopausal women with hot flashes or night sweats. Most experts, however, recommend completing vigorous exercise at least three hours before bedtime because it can stimulate your heart, brain and muscles, as well as raise your body temperature.
9. Keep a sleep diary for a week or two to see what patterns emerge and what triggers a bad night sleep and then look at ways to break the cycle https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/insomnia/Documents/sleepdiary.pdf and this will help you to….
10. Develop your own sleep strategy – what works for you
More on hot flushes/ night sweats
Hot flushes can be the cause of chronic sleep disruption and can perpetuate insomnia, keeping women awake by feeling like they are losing control over their sleep and worrying about the impact of hot flushes on their sleep quality and, consequently, how well they will function the next day.
Hot flushes can persist for several years past menopause and are therefore a potential long-term source of sleep disruption, which, in turn, affects quality of life, including mental and physical health.
1. Chill in bed.
Chillow is a pillow with a cooling water insert that lowers your body temperature. It won’t stop hot flushes, but it can reduce their intensity and their ability to disrupt your sleep.
2. Drop your temp.
Lower the temperature of your bedroom before you climb into bed. Lower temperatures signal your body that it’s time to sleep, and they make hot flushes less disruptive. If your bed partner objects, just tell him or her to bundle up and there is nothing wrong with sleeping alone if you get a better night’s sleep (and so do they).
3. A hot bath also helps you lower your body’s temperature. Yes, your temperature goes up while you’re in the bath, but your body’s response to the heat will be to drop your temperature.
4. As long as perimenopausal dryness hasn’t resulted in painful intercourse, enjoy a quickie, Some 44 percent of perimenopausal women say they don’t have time for sex. But the Big O is still one of the most sleep-inducing agents around. And you don’t need a partner!
5. Tone it down.
Toning down a jumpy sympathetic nervous system** will encourage a balanced sleep/wake cycle in perimenopausal women. Think about tai chi, meditation, prayer, biofeedback, yoga’ or any activity that allows you to cultivate a peaceful centre and a sense of balance.
The Hot Flush Freedom Challenge by Julie Dennis recommends trying controlled breathing. Breath deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth 4 to 6 times to calm anxiety.
Do it more (10-20 breathes) and concentrate on the counting to calm the mind and body.
**The sympathetic nervous system normally functions to produce localized adjustments (such as sweating as a response to an increase in temperature) and reflex adjustments of the cardiovascular system. Under conditions of stress, however, the entire sympathetic nervous system is activated,The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight or flight response.
Tips from our support group
1. Try singing in bed to distract the chattering brain or have the radio on low, or read a book. No electronics!
2. Try a Himalayian salt lamp in the bedroom. Acts as a soothing night light and air purifier Once turned on, the salt crystal gives off negative ions which can purify air and fight against electromagnetic radiation, fatigue and sluggishness When lit, it emits a warm peaceful glow, creates a calming ambiance that helps reduce stress and increases energy
3. Foods that help you sleep: Choose protein foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan. This helps boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts and seeds (any high in magnesium) are all good choices. Combine these with rice, pasta or potatoes to help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. Wholegrains such as Quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, whole oats, and brown rice are also rich iin magnesium
Tart Cherry Juice – Boasts high melatonin content. In a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found significant reductions in severity of insomnia when participants were drinking the cherry juice.
And then hopefully……..