How many hours’ sleep did you get last night? The experts tell us that as an adult we need 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep a night to stay healthy, alert and able to function effectively in our daily lives. Unfortunately for many women going through menopause, that amount of undisturbed nightly rest is nothing but a pipe dream!
Lack of sleep can leave you irritable, unable to concentrate at work or on daily tasks. Over time, insomnia can lead to depression and a weakened immune system.
Although the inability to get a good night’s sleep can be linked to psychological issues such as anxiety, stress at work, relationship or family worries and financial concerns, changes in hormone levels are often the root cause of insomnia in women during the menopausal years.
A decline in progesterone, which normally has a sleep-inducing effect, can mean you are not able to fall asleep quickly or soundly, while decreasing estrogen levels may cause hot flashes and night sweats, waking you up several times a night and interrupting your sleep cycle.
How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Fortunately there are ways that you can wind down your body and your mind to induce sleep and get the rest you need.
- Natural & Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies are a safe and natural drug-free alternative treatment for menopausal symptoms and insomnia.Plant extracts such as Black Cohosh and Dong Quai have been shown to address the hormone imbalance that causes sleeplessness, hot flashes and night sweats. Melatonin, Passion Flower and Valerian Root can be effective in helping you to relax and in promoting restful sleep.
- Relaxation Techniques
Guided meditation and music therapy, either in the form of CD’s or downloadable MP3 files, can be extremely powerful in promoting deep relaxation and ultimately, sleep.
Breathing techniques used in meditation are also calming and relaxing and help to prepare you for sleep. Lie on your back and try to focus fully on your breath, in and out. Whenever thoughts enter your mind (and they will), just calmly set them aside and return your focus to your breathing. It takes a bit of practice but is also a great technique for getting back to sleep if you wake during the night.
Progressive muscle relaxation techniques focus on relaxing the body which in turn relaxes the mind. Lie on your back and consciously relax each muscle one by one starting at your toes and moving slowly upwards through your ankles, knees, upper legs, thighs, abdomen, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, face and head.This technique works so well that you’ll probably be asleep before you reach your neck!
- Read a Good Book
Something soothing and benign; no adventure novels, psychological thrillers or horror stories. A couple of paragraphs at bedtime can often be enough to lull you into sleep mode.
A simple yoga stretch and relaxation routine before bedtime can set you up for a relaxing night’s rest.
- Warm Bath or Shower, Scents
Try having a warm, relaxing bath or shower about 15 minutes before bedtime. Scented candles or soaps can lend a sense of calm and relaxation to your night- time ablutions. Just don’t forget to blow out the candles before you go to bed!
Top 5 DON’Ts…
- Watch TV directly before going to bed (or while you’re in bed!).
- Work on the computer or surf the web for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Drink alcohol or caffeine for at least 4 hours before retiring for the night.
- Eat big meals or snacks after 7pm.
- Read stimulating or disturbing books in bed.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ cure for insomnia. You have to find out what works for you. You can do this by trying out some of the remedies and techniques mentioned here to see which ones really work for you. Keep a journal so you can see whether certain activities, eating or drinking patterns correspond to your insomnia.
And if all else fails, get up and go into another room for 10 minutes before returning to bed. Sometimes it works!