“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to”….
The quote I have used for a heading is by F Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe one of the keys to better sleep is to try not to think this (particularly when you are lying awake at night). Just to accept that you are awake and nothing bad will happen. The difficulty with that, as we all know, is that everything seems worse in the middle of the night. It is hard to be calm when you know you have something to do the next day which is demanding.
Poor sleep quality is one of the number one complaints I hear from women in their mid 40s and beyond. Since I started posting about it on social media I have been amazed at the response. It is everywhere – a lot of women are having bad night’s sleep. Most of these women used to sleep well. Some like me, were champion sleepers. I could be up with a baby 7 times in the night, have a quick nap at a swimming lesson, sleep while the baby slept. Now I lie awake at 4am waiting to get up.
Apparently the reasons for poor sleep when women are in peri menopause or menopause are:
- a natural decline in estrogen, progesterone and melatonin (all linked to sleep in ways I won’t go into)
- anxiety (which can make it hard to fall asleep) and depression which causes early waking and non restorative sleep (although some argue anxiety and depression come from the lack of sleep)
- joint pain
- bladder problems which mean you have to get up in the night
- sleep apnea (which often goes undiagnosed in a lot of women)
- hot flashes/flushes(your brain has a lot of triggers that come on before a hot flash/flush and you will wake just before it happens)
Below are all the suggestions I have gathered from various professionals, people in healthcare and my clients. I hope you can see some strategies that you could try. Let me know how you go with them:
Do some physical exercise during the day (MY NUMBER 1 tip – surprise surprise…but it really does make a difference)
Try to reduce stress throughout the day as much as you can – go easy on yourself where you can (stress filled days can lead to bad nights)
Write a to-do list instead of trying to keep a mental tally
Try to keep regular hours (same bed time same wake time)
Avoid alcohol and rich food before bed
Last coffee for the day at lunch time
Warm milk before bed
Bath before bed.
Go to bed when you feel sleepy rather than falling asleep on the couch.
Walk in the morning. Morning walks in the daylight help to set the body’s natural sense of day and night.
No screens before bed. No phone in your room. Bed is only for sleep and sex not study or tv.
Good black out curtains. Ear plugs if necessary.
Cool temperatures for sleeping – air con, fans, open windows, linen sheets. We sleep better when the room is cold.
Get some acupuncture – tell the practitioner that you want to sleep better (and lessen night sweats if this is an issue). A couple of clients have had great success with this.
Learn useful meditation techniques and breathing techniques for going back to sleep. You might even seek help with this. The key is to stay calm when you wake up during the night. Maybe read a book until you feel tired again.
Apps for sleeping. Some can report on your sleep so you can see how long you and how deeply you slept. Others can help you get to sleep with soothing noises or white noise.
See the pharmacist – Blooms Pharmacy in Edgecliff is excellent. There are several “natural” products available and some “behind the counter” products that do not require a prescription such as melatonin which is best taken 2 hours before bed. These types of products are best used as circuit breakers. If you are in a cycle of not sleeping well – these kind of products can help you correct things but the aim is short term use. One product that was recommended by a client is called “remifemin” – it helps to reduce and relieve hot flushes and night sweats – it is black cohosh.
See a Chinese herbalist. The woman I saw for fertility when I was trying to achieve a successful pregnancy when I was in my early 40s now helps women with menopause. Her name is Lily Liu and she is in Surry Hills. She does acupuncture too. She is very good at what she does.
Go to the athletes/bodybuilders supplement store – ASN Darlinghurst is great. There are products designed to reduce adrenal stress. Also magnesium which can help with sleep.
Speak to your GP about HRT if you are not already on it. This is not an option for everyone but it can help if you decide to go ahead. Your GP will also help you work out what else might be prescribed to sort out your sleep.
If you have any other ideas that have worked for you – please let me know and I will add them to this article!!
Thanks to everyone who contributed.