What is it about midlife and menopause than switches off our ability enjoy a decent night’s sleep? I can’t remember the last time I woke up to the alarm, feeling rested and recharged. Lord knows I need it. The circles under my eyes tell a sorry tale of disturbed sleep. I envy both Cost Centres (a.k.a my kids). Their ability to fall asleep anywhere, not surfacing for a good ten hours is one I’d love to have back again.
It all began when my once-reliable hormones began to fluctuate. Up. Down. Up. Even more UP. Down to almost nothing. Back to normal. And so on. The accompanying hot flushes and night sweats are obvious culprits. I dare anyone to sleep through an inferno followed by generating puddles of sweat! Many a night I woke up to an impromptu puddle at the bottom of my rib cage! I used to keep a small towel by my bed to mop up before anything had the chance to dribble onto the bed sheets. Having mopped up and cooled off, this seemed to trigger my brain into action. It would jump onto the hamster wheel and think about all sorts of random, sometimes scary, crap. Fast-forward to today, and although I’m now post-menopausal, with supposedly level hormones, I still join the ‘sleepless at 3am brigade’ on a regular basis. Blooming annoying.
It seems that our fluctuating oestrogen levels (or even permanently low levels) are joined by inefficient sleep hormone production. As if hot flushes and night sweats aren’t enough to contend with. This heady cocktail can make it harder to fall asleep, harder to stay asleep and more easily disturbed by noises, lights etc. In the Dean household, Cost centre 2 has a habit of gaming online with a headset on. He forgets how loud his voice is, particularly when he laughs. Once I’m shaken awake by his victory yells it’s almost impossible to fall asleep again with all that adrenaline running riot, not to mention the flushes that accompany such a rude awakening. I love him to bits but there are times when I’d cheerfully throw the broadband router out the window!!
Stress and/or anxiety are obvious causes for sleep disturbance (amongst other things). Given the above situation with noisy kids, plus my own parents’ health issues praying on my mind, coupled with added health anxiety, it’s a great recipe for ensuring I’m awake to appreciate our local population of owls hooting at each other!
I’m certain our obsession with communications technology is unhealthy. We humans were never meant to be available 24/7. Not so long ago, winding down from the day involved a little tv, maybe a book (a real one) and then bed. Now humans seem incapable of staying off their gadgets, checking emails and social media from what used to be the quiet of the bedroom.
This is by no means a complete list. Nor does it constitute medical advice. It is simply a random list of things I’ve tried with varying success. If you are worried about your sleep, use your common sense and see a qualified healthcare professional.
Cath’s list of sleep aids.
- No caffeine after lunchtime – women take longer to break down caffeine than men.
- Limit food intake three hours before you go to bed to allow yours stomach time to digest its meal and empty itself. Late eating often leads to a spot of heartburn… that’s going to keep anyone wide awake.
- Get moving. Daily exercise of some form helps reduce stress levels. Just don’t have a cardio workout close to bedtime. Swap it for some chillout yoga session instead.
- Make sure you get the best mattress you can. After all, you spend a third of your life asleep so be as comfortable as possible
- Sleep in a dark room. If this isn’t possible, invest in a good sleep mask. And while we’re on the subject of light, or limiting it, no sneaky looks at your phone/tablet at least an hour before bed. Even with night mode enabled, those things are still stimulating your mind.
- Mindfulness – ten minutes of undisturbed calmness, focussing on just your breath, in and out, calms the brain. You can do this anywhere. I make it part of my get ready for bed routine
- Keep your bedroom uncluttered and tidy… a calm feeling in the bedroom goes a long way to helping you unwind
- Aromatherapy – lavender oil is a big favourite for invoking a calm atmosphere. Here’s my recipe for a room/bedding spray. You will need:
- A clean spray bottle (holds at least 30ml)
- 30ml water
- 5 drops clary sage
- 5 drops frankincense
- 5 drop geranium
Mix well and spray your room and bedding for a soothing aroma.
What do you do to ensure a decent night’s sleep? Share your top tips in the comments section.
Have a fab Friday my lovely readers xx