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Why does the menopause affect your sleep? Is insomnia something that affects every woman during menopause or can you escape it?

It’s no surprise to learn that when a woman hits the 40 mark, it’s all a bit daunting to say the least!  The menopause has a lot to answer for, especially when it comes to affecting your sleep. 

From the moment your hormones start roller-coasting in the perimenopause years, it’s a whole new ball game trying to sleep and keep up with the demands of life.  From dealing with the start of hot flashes, incontinence to restless leg syndrome, it can feel like everything has happened at once!

What happens to our body during menopause

Your estrogen and progesterone levels gradually decrease, which disturbs your sleep and in turn can cause stress, anxiety and low self esteem. Emotions are all over the place, brain fog, mood swings to name but a few.

The prospect of children leaving home, caring for elderly parents and the pressure of holding a job down all come at you, equating to a recipe for chaos.  

With hormones all over the place, the most common symptom of the menopause is hot flashes, night sweats and the constant situation of waking up like you’ve run a marathon and can’t get enough cool air on your body!  All the time breaking your circadian rhythm before you have managed to benefit from the four stages of sleep, and reaching the all important REM stage.

What you can do to help

  • Lifestyle  – Eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and getting daily exercise. Keep an eye on the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume. 
  • Avoid Tech – Removing any form of technology from you bedroom is a huge bonus.  The bedroom should be known for relaxation, sleep and sex, nothing else!  Take your work outside the bedroom and leave it there!  You should also switch your screen to bedtime mode in the settings, so it reduces the LED blue light after a certain time.  This is a great habit to get into, and makes you more aware of “scrolling” late in the evening too!
  • Environment – Cool and dark, need we say more.  Before you retire to your bed try having a bath, read a book, or listen to some music (not heavy rock or gym beats!) to fully relax the body ready for bed.
  • Resist The Temptation – When you wake up in the night, resist the temptation to check your phone (as this should be switched off, or out of the bedroom).  Don’t turn on the TV.  Try practising some deep breathing exercises.  If all else fails and you’re still lying there after 20 minutes, get up and read your book, do some ironing or some simple yoga relaxation poses, just avoid any tech that will stimulate your mind.  Then return to bed and hopefully this will have reduced the anxiety you felt laying awake and assist in breaking the pattern.
  • Reduce Fluids – If you are waking up to pop to the toilet, try avoiding large drinks at least two hours before bedtime.  Sipping small amounts of cool water is fine, just avoid the pint glass and definitely no caffeinated drinks!
  • Comfort First – What you wear in bed has a huge impact, restrictive clothing and fabrics that do not allow the body to breathe, all contribute to restless sleep.  If all else fails, you can always go commando and see if that helps, just don’t go sleep walking if you don’t live alone!  Choose natural fibres that expel moisture away from the body.  This also goes for your bedding, cotton and bamboo are excellent for staying cool.  If you share a bed with your partner, try having two separate duvets, so they don’t end up freezing when you want the summer one in mid winter!

And finally…

Never underestimate the importance of sleep on you as a person.  Your whole mood, attitude to others and confidence in yourself changes when you suffer from sleep deprivation. 

Think of the menopause as the next stage in your life, where you finally get the chance to invest in you, whether you like it or not!  Half the battle is admitting the changes that are taking place, understanding the cause and what help can be done to resolve them, simply by looking after YOU as a whole.

Stay Calm and #sleephappy!

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