Insomnia is one of those things that can come and go in our life, but there are some things that increase its likelihood. One of them is the menopause. Research from the National Sleep Foundation has revealed that as many as 61% of women suffer from sleep difficulties when going through their menopausal years. Here’s our advice on what you can do about it…
Changing levels of oestrogen can cause a wide range of menopausal symptoms including, for 75-85% of women, hot flashes – feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating. They usually begin around the face and spread to the neck and upper body. While the flash itself often lasts only a few minutes, the temperature rise that precedes it is enough to wake you up when sleeping. Even if you are able to get back off to sleep quickly, waking up midway through the night has an impact on sleep quality and can cause next-day fatigue. The longer this continues (and it could be a year or more) weariness and anxiety levels rise. It’s potentially a vicious circle that leaves you exhausted and feeling out of kilter. Here are some tips that might just help…
1. Temperature Control
Our body is very sensitive to temperature changes through the night. Waking up when we get too hot (or too cold) is a safety mechanism to ensure our core body temperature stays within safe boundaries. So to manage the effects of hot flashes do everything you can to go to bed cool and stay that way…
*Dress to stay cool – keep nightwear light, loose and natural. Natural fabrics such as cotton and silk allow the skin to breath. Exposed arms and legs allow heat to escape quickly. Or even better, where nothing at all
*Dress your bed to match – Choose light coloured, natural fabrics for sheets and bedding. If you sleep under a duvet, include a sheet under it too so you can kick away the heavier covering if you start to feel warm once you settle in to bed. Avoid foam mattresses and pillows – they might support your head and spine but they also trap heat and take an age to cool back down
*Keep your bedroom cool by day and by night – The ideal temperature to sleep in is 19 degrees celsius – thats quite chilly. Keep blinds down by day if sunlight streams in to your bedroom so it’s cool when you go to bed. Keep a fan close by or open a window and the door (to draw air through) to keep the air flowing once you are there
*Avoid heat sources – It’s not just the radiators you need to turn off. Anything that is plugged in and on stand by or charging will also give off heat. It all adds up to raise the air temperature so keep them out of your bedroom
2. Manage your stress
Anxiety and stress levels can compound the sleepless nights. The best bit of advice we can offer someone to help encourage a good night’s sleep is to put time aside at the end of each day to get in to sleep mode. Taking time out to de-stress before bed is an effective way to calm the mind and help it wind down to resting levels. This is more important than ever during the menopause, as changing hormone levels often result in stressful mood swings and missed sleep can quickly lead to anxiety and worry.
*Tap in to aromatherapy – Nature gives some amazingly soothing aromas that have the power to influence how calm we are and therefore how readily we can get to sleep. Research has shown that breathing in certain scents (such as the rose, neroli and jasmine oils we use in our Kiss the Moon blends for example) can help to bring the two hemispheres of our brain in to harmony. When that happens we experience feelings of calm and wellbeing. The more balanced our brains are, the safer we can feel and therefore the easier it is to fall in to a restful sleep.
Check out our Kiss the Moon Bedside must-haves – sleep balms and pillow mists both of which you can keep within arms reach to create a soothing space to sleep in and to help you drop back off to sleep if you wake through the night
*Tune in and tune out – Podcasts and audiobooks are a brilliant way to distract yourself on nights when you want to fall back to sleep but your mind is whirring. Check out some of our favourites podcasts specifically designed for bedtime recently featured in our Bedtime Blog post…
*Write it down – Write a to do list for tomorrow before you turn in for the night so you can rest easy knowing nothing is going to be forgotten. Keep a notepad and pen at your bedside so you can jot down anything that pops to mind as you fall asleep. Once it’s down on paper you can forget about it until the morning
3. Get physical
How we spend our day has been found to impact on how well we sleep at night, especially during menopause.
*Exercise (more) – A brand-new study just published in the Menopause Journal 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
*Stretch – Before bed, some simple stretches or easy yoga moves can help to stretch the muscles and release held tension. A gentle yoga session as part of your wind down routine could help you mentally prepare for bed too
*Avoid the hot, the spicy and the caffeinated – Eat and drink wisely before bed. Avoid anything that gets your heart racing at least 2 hrs before you want to sleep – that means hot curries as well as tea and coffee. Check out our blog post on which foods can actually help you feel sleepy
*And breathe – Have a few simple breathing exercises up your sleeve for bedtime. Even three long deep breaths is enough to change your body and mind and help you stay centred. Breathe it in
4. Ask for professional help
If things start to get you down, don’t suffer in silence – it’s time to ask for help.
*Speak to your doctor – Ask about the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and whether it could be right for you
*Natural remedies – You might also want to check out over-the-counter nutritional products that contain phytoestrogens such as black cohosh, extract of red clover and ginseng
*It’s good to talk – If symptoms or lack of sleep is starting to really make you feel down – speak to your doctor about support in the form of an expert in handling anxiety or seek out counselling from a support group. Talking to someone who understands what you are going through and in the process, finding out how others have coped in a similar situation can be a huge help so don’t hold back