To the tune of a well known Christmas song … On the third day of menopause my body gave to me, a really crap night’s sleep!
Yep our next common symptom in the menopause count down is insomnia. Now let’s start with your basic hormone-responsible insomnia.
For most lovely ladies this seems to manifest as being able to get off to sleep ok but then waking at some point in the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Previously brilliant sleepers can lose all ability to perform this supposedly entirely natural task of closing their eyes and nodding off.
That’s your basic level of menopause crap sleep. And what causes the waking? Well it can be:
– night sweats*
– can’t get body temperature right (too hot then too cold)*
– anxious thoughts*
– angry thoughts, feeling wound up*
– having to change your tampon due to ridiculously heavy period*
– itchy skin*
– aching joints*
– restless legs (or other body parts)*
* all due to the menopause
As we can see, the other issues that the menopause causes can, in turn, impact on your sleep and cause you to wake up. Your hormones can then make it really hard to get back to sleep.
Other issues affecting sleep can also be needing a wee, alcohol and an increase in cortisol (I think it’s that one – can’t remember) due to a drop in blood sugar.
And of course as part of the vicious circle a crap sleep then increases the chances of brain fog, anxiety, irritableness, feeling low etc that I talked about over the last two days.
So what can we do? Well we can try to eliminate as many of the waking triggers as possible and go to bed earlier. A couple of months ago the Husband and I instigated a new sleep regime. No snacking or drinks after 8pm and trying to be in bed with lights off by 10ish. Oh we are such Rock Stars!
The thinking being that if the alarm is going off at 6am we need to be at least going to sleep by 10pm to have a hope of 8 hours of snooze. It takes a while for your body to adjust but we are generally yawning by 9.30 now. (And to think we met out partying and our dating was all about being drunk and stupid until the early hours!). Hence, even if I’m awake for an hour at 3am, I still have a chance of 6.5/7 hours sleep .. and I can survive quite well on that. If I got to bed at 11 or 11.30 however and still have an hour of wakefulness in the night, I am a wreck. That’s my first top tip – do your maths and count back from your alarm time to give yourself at least a fighting chance of enough sleep. And try not to sleep in too much at the weekends. Your body doesn’t know it’s the weekend and likes routine … much like a toddler.
Other things we have tried that seem to help are taking a Valerian supplement before bed. A lot of people swear by it. They do smell weird but seem to work but you have to stick with it for a few weeks. Also having a herbal sleep tea a few hours before bed and trying not to drink too much fluid in the evening.
Not snacking during the evening also helps apparently as if you snack during the evening it can cause a later blood sugar dip in the night which in turn wakes you up. Especially if you are snacking on high carb stuff like chocolate, sugar items and crisps. They all cause a steep rise in insulin which then crashes.
Oh and the one we all know about of no bright devices in the hour or so before bed .. yep that includes your phone & ipad so if you’re reading this in bed at night stop reading right now! Your body thinks it’s the sunshine and hence wants to wake up. I seem to be fine with the Kindle Paperwhite on a low brightness setting. I also tend to read if I wake in the night rather than lying there awake but only ever boring books, nothing too gripping. A few pages of a self-development book usually do the job for me.
Anyway that’s some basic sleep hygiene stuff but see what works for you and feel free to add any other suggestions in the comments for other people.
I also really liked this book on Insomnia – ‘The Effortless Sleep Method’ by Sasha Stephens. Sasha talks a lot about how our thinking hugely influences our sleep, and this can be helpful for the 4am waking. And we bought a new mattress after noticing we slept a lot better when on holiday on a really comfy mattress.
Other ladies have found that taking other supplements can help with the menopause symptoms, which in turn can help with sleeping. Some have good success with the combination supplements such as Menopace (or equivalent cheaper supermarket options), some like Evening Primrose Oil, some find Magnesium can help with restless legs etc. If you are suffering from some of the other physical symptoms it’s well worth doing some research and seeing what could help you. I’ll be covering them a bit over the coming week too.
My sleep strategy is definitely not foolproof but I felt we had to give our bodies the best chance of a good sleep, and it has helped. We are sleeping better and for longer each night than we were a few months ago. I was annoyingly awake at 5am today but as it was lights out by 11 (a bit late due to book club) I still got in 6 hours. A bit low but ok, especially as yesterday clocked in at over 7.5hrs. Please like / share to help any other exhausted women. Sue X. PS I’ll have a pause on the blog over the weekend and will continue with the Menopause countdown on Monday.