Sleep…Menopause and Insomnia…what can you do…

Sleep – what a difference it makes when you get a good nights sleep, to wake up feeling rested instead of feeling a bit ’punch drunk’. For an incredible amount of women this becomes the eternal battle.

The average amount of sleep required by adults is said to be around 7 hours, quite a lot of women I speak to count themselves lucky if they get 5. Regardless of amount, those hours should be of a good quality and should be uninterrupted….do I hear expletives and gasps of dismay from you as you read this?!

When symptoms take over, especially the vasomotor ones like hot flushes and night sweats, it becomes increasingly difficult to get those 7 hours doesn’t it and for them to be of a good quality so your sleep is restorative, rather then restless and disrupted.

Many women I meet still don’t realise it’s not just the vasomotor symptoms that can affect sleep it’s all those other lesser known ones as well… psychological ones play a huge role in sleep disturbance. If you are anxious, stressed or have low mood swings, these symptoms all contribute to the quality of your sleep. Genitourinary symptoms – oestrogen deficiency contributes to all the vaginal symptoms but also contributes to urinary problems like frequency and leakage aswell, resulting in your sleep being interrupted by having to get up in the middle of the night for that extra pee!

It’s always good to realise that sleep disturbance isn’t just down to menopausal symptoms. Every day stresses like relationships, your work and simple things like poor time management resulting in never getting time for yourself all play contributory roles.

Ok, so what can you do…LIFESTYLE CHOICES…yes I know here I go again banging on about lifestyle, diet and exercise but they can and do make a huge impact on not only your symptoms but can help enormously towards getting a better nights sleep.

So…look at your diet …really look at your exercise levels and then you will be off to a good start! A couple of previous posts which have handy tips in…

http://letstalkmenopause.co.uk/nutrition-menopause-oh-yes-makes-difference/

http://letstalkmenopause.co.uk/exercise-fitness-fun-tips-help-get-inspired/

Other essentials are looking at the amount of alcohol you drink and if you do have the odd tipple every night then please try having the odd night off, I guarantee you will get a better nights sleep! The same goes for caffeine – how many coffees did you have today?! Cut down the caffeine levels – absolute no brainer and don’t have a caffeinated drink later in the day. Caffeine stays circulating around in your body for longer than you think.

Having a good bedtime routine can make a difference – take time to have that bath instead of just collapsing into bed. It can really help you to relax, (try adding some geranium oil), and gives you those essential few moments to yourself. If you’re into yoga / pilates just take a moment to do some gentle stretches before bedtime – excellent way to wind down and brilliant for your muscles especially if you’re prone to the likes of restless leg syndrome and get those switching legs – soooo annoying!

Tech stuff…the blue light emitted from our LED screens can contribute to insomnia and eye strain. By finding ways to regulate exposure to blue light it may help you to sleep better, can help to stabilise mood and preserve eyesight. It’s advisable to switch off electronic devices an hour before bedtime. If you find this impossible try wearing yellow tinted glasses when watching TV or googling things on your laptop for those last couple of hours before you go to bed – said to have made significant differences to sleep patterns.

Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia wearing yellow tinted glasses benefits anyone who spends a lot of time on their computer or smartphone, and anyone who spends time on game consoles. It can really help to reduce eye fatigue and strain. Don’t forget most smartphones have a filter in their settings you can switch on which helps to reduce the intensity.

The bedroom – this should not become an extension of your office – take out all techy equipment and don’t take your phone to bed with you! Latest advice from the experts – if you haven’t managed to get to sleep within 30 mins or have been asleep and are now awake and can’t get back to sleep, don’t lie there fretting away. Get up and leave the bedroom get a glass of water, read a book,  listen to some music or do some simple CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) exercises which you have now taken the time to learn! (Link to excellent self help book below), Make sure no techy equipment is turned on. In other words try and avoid stimulation of any sort! Then go back to bed and try to sleep again…keep doing this and gradually you will retrain your body into a better sleeping pattern…not a quick fix but can work if you persevere. You could of course always wake up your partner have a quick bonk and then go back to sleep – yep any form of exercise…!

Summary 

Self help…

  • Good bedtime routine
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Check your caffeine intake – reduce plus have the last intake earlier in day – that goes for chocolate / fizzy drinks too
  • Alcohol – doesn’t help sleep – avoid or reduce
  • Bedroom – cool, reduce noise & light and invest in a good mattress
  • Avoid tech no TVs / laptops or phones

Natural ways to help 

  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Stress management
  • Time management
  • Pelvic floor exercises – look at the squeezy app

Medical and alternative methods

  • HRT – helps all menopausal symptoms which then has the knock on effect of helping to restore good sleep patterns.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – learning simple methods of CBT can really help reduce the intensity and frequency of symptoms so aiding sleep.
  • Hypnotics
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga and pilates

Great book to look at self help for CBT : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Managing-Hot-Flushes-Night-Sweats/dp/0415625157

A brilliant guide by the BMS written by Heather Currie past chair of the BMS recently came out and is well worth a read.

https://www.womens-health-concern.org/_wpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/WHC-FACTSHEET-Menopause-and-insomnia-01E.pdf