The constant battle of trying to sleep better at night naturally can add to the stress that women in midlife often need to contend with especially as thanks to fluctuating hormones sleep can sometimes be difficult.
Do you have bags under your eyes that are so big you could pack them for a weekend away?
I occasionally do but then mine are Prada so they are designer which means they were expensive and they can stay.
All jokes aside, if lack of sleep and exhaustion are a constant in your life or you run on stress hormones all day read on because I have some great tips for you!
When Molly my eldest daughter was going through a difficult time with insomnia I would be up with her often until 2 am in the morning and I was getting up at 5 am. I found the best way to make sure I got through this time with virtually no sleep was to make an effort to keep the rest of my health in humming with a good diet, plenty of water and exercise.
The Science Of Sleep Is Fascinating, Complicated And Growing
Sleep is an important thing that we all do daily and yet we’re only just beginning to understand its exact benefits and what affects it.
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and your mind.
Not enough and you are at risk of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer; as well as health changes like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation.
If you are in menopause not getting enough creates the perfect ‘poor-health’ storm. It can negatively impact moods, memory and decision-making skills. You may already suffer fogginess thanks to lowered estrogen. Missing out on decent “shut-eye” will only make that worse.
It is important to learn how we can improve our sleep naturally.
And what about your looks? Not getting enough sleep leaves your skin dry and bags under your eyes as we’ve already mentioned. Being over 50 I need all the help I can get and a good night’s sleep is free so I’ll do whatever it takes to have one.
Sleepless nights may also negate the health benefits of your exercise program? GASP! All that hard work and no benefit, that is seriously not good.
The three main purposes of sleep are:
- To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
- To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
- To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day.
So how much sleep do adults need? It’s less than growing kids but you may be surprised to know that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night. Try not to skimp!
Don’t worry, I have you covered with actionable tips for a better night's sleep.
But wait there's more
If you're a woman in perimenopause or menopause you may have already discovered that a good night's sleep can be elusive. Some women have trouble falling to sleep, some wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep. It’s no surprise considering that the odds are stacked against you.
As we enter perimenopause,
our hormones are not descending in a straight line. Like our moods, it’s more of an out of control roller coaster, while the body gets used to its new way of being. It’s what causes the symptoms that go along with menopause. The odds are against us and really, considering what we are up against it is a wonder that we sleep at all.
Hormones regulate your energy, the way you function, and how well you sleep.
Estrogen is the primary hormone...
in regulating our reproductive function and monthly cycle. Estrogen also promotes good, restful sleep. When our estrogen levels are good we enjoy positive moods, good skin, mental clarity and good sleep. When they are low we can suffer from anxiety, fatigue, fogginess, headaches and poor sleep.
Lower estrogen levels can also contribute to hot flushes and night sweats which can also disrupt your sleep.
It is a double-edged sword as sleep disturbance can, in turn, lead to anxiety and depression.
Progesterone works in tandem...
with estrogen and has a sleep-inducing effect. Its levels also decline in menopause.
Low progesterone, like estrogen, can also contribute to anxiety and poor sleep.
The decline in progesterone can reduce our upper airway capacity making it more difficult to breathe easily. Menopausal women are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than their non-menopausal counterparts.
is a hormone which also plays an important part in our sleep and this too also decreases as we age.
in menopause can be worse if sleep is a problem. Without sleep, we tend to be more anxious and stressed which gives a nice clear path to that demon hormone, cortisol. Cortisol will cause your insulin levels to rise which in turns sees your blood sugar levels drop leaving you craving all the sugary things.
So with the odds against us...
It’s important when menopause affects our sleep to develop habits to keep our sleep quality from deteriorating and the effects of that snowballing into our health and well being.
Tips For To Sleep Better At Night Naturally
My number one tip for a good night's sleep is to try to get yourself on a consistent sleep schedule
Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it.
Your circadian rhythm (your internal 24-hour clock) loves routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps your body to set its serotonin levels and know when it’s time for sleep and when to be awake.
This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it
Balance your blood sugar throughout the day
Eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre. Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat especially vegetable protein such as nuts, pumpkin seeds, linseeds.
Get some sunshine and exercise.
These things tell your body its daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Cut off your caffeine and sugar intake after 12 pm
Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind more active than you need it to be in the evening. Check out the chai latte in this post for a luxurious caffeine-free drink.
Have a relaxing bedtime routine
Start 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off).
Your routine might include writing in a journal. Especially a gratitude journal which is great for the mind.
Keep the lights low while making sure your reading light is strong enough to read by. Bright lights stimulate the brain. This also goes for electronic devices including e-readers.
I love mooching around in my pj’s when the lights are low and the house is quiet. I find it very relaxing. Having a similar pattern every night tells your brain it is time for sleep.
Make a list for the next day
This is a good way to get things out of your head so they are less likely to niggle you while you are trying to sleep.
Try a breathing technique
I do the 4-7-8 method every night and have noticed it really does help me relax and fall asleep much easier.
Bonus Tips For Sleeping Better At Night
In the cooler months, I like to take a cup of nice relaxing chamomile to bed with me.
Magnesium is well known for its ability to relieve insomnia. It helps decrease cortisol, the stress hormone. It also helps to relax muscles and give you an overall sense of calm. I take one before bed and one in the morning.
So you have successfully fallen asleep, then something dreadful happens. Just as Ryan Gosling is looking into your eyes with wanton abandon you wake up.
WEIGHT LOSS MISTAKES WOMEN IN MIDLIFE MAKE
Here are my tips for how to stay asleep...
and actually finding out what Mr Gosling had in store for you:
Tossing and Turning?
If you are having trouble sleeping, get up and do a quiet activity. We need to associate bed with sleep and perhaps one other activity but certainly not the stress of trying to sleep when you can’t.
Never underestimate what a good mattress and pillow can do for you
I have never regretted mortgaging the house to buy a mattress and pillow. Seriously though don’t skimp when buying a mattress and spend some time deciding what is right for you. The same goes for your pillow. It really is a matter of preference but don’t forget, you get what you pay for. Choose hypoallergenic materials that won’t harbour dust mites.
Keep your bedroom cool and choose natural fibres for your linen
Your body temperature lowers when you sleep. Being too hot can make it harder to fall asleep. In hotter climates, I recommend getting a decent ceiling fan installed above the bed. It moves the air around and cools the skin. Our fan has a super slow, quiet mode which is perfect. Every now and then I have to crank it up to cool down but not often.
For sheets, 100% cotton is a good way to go. Natural fibres breathe keeping you cooler and more comfortable.
Keep the light and noise out
If you live in a noisy area I suggest getting earplugs. As for the light, if like us you live somewhere where in the summer it starts to get light very early counteract this by using block out curtains or a simple eye mask.
Keep clocks facing away from the bed
Knowing the time can cause stress and prevent you from getting back to sleep.
Regular exercise is good at reducing stress and helps promote deeper and better sleep.
Don’t eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime. If you need to eat keep it light to avoid your digestion kicking up a stink.
Keep a notebook beside the bed
If you remember something you need to do or have a great idea in the night write it down and get it out of your head.
Don’t have caffeine or other stimulants too late into the afternoon.
Give up that alcoholic nightcap (big sigh). It may help you get to sleep but can wake you later as your body processes the alcohol.
It is important to develop habits to ensure that we sleep better at night naturally to protect us from the effects that sleep deprivation can have on our health and wellbeing once we are in midlife.