Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Tales from the other side – To sleep, perchance to dream…

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.

Photo by Lukas on

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!

Photo by Skitterphoto on

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.

  1. No caffeine after lunchtime – women take longer to break down caffeine than men.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. Keep your bedroom uncluttered and tidy… a calm feeling in the bedroom goes a long way to helping you unwind
  8. Aromatherapy – lavender oil is a big favourite for invoking a calm atmosphere. Here’s my recipe for a room/bedding spray. You will need:
  9. 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

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Tales from the other side… a weighty issue!

It’s seems to me that everything you read about menopause and weight points towards the inevitability of untameable waistlines. I believed it too. Then I met a fellow menopause warrior on holiday a couple of years ago. She looked amazing! I have to admit, the green-eyed monster call jealousy poked its head up. How could this lovely woman, who admitted to having battled the bulge in her pre-menopausal years, come out the other side looking fitter and more shapely? And why did I look like the Mitchelin Man in spite of all my attempts to shrink my middle? I swear an army of imps had got loose in my wardrobe, stitching up the seams and waistbands on everything!

As the holiday progressed we got to know each other well enough to chat about how she achieved her healthy look. And more to the point, how she was staying in her zone. We were on an all-inclusive holiday which usually sounds the death-knell for any healthy eating plans. I was amazed at what she could freely eat and but not what needed to be moderated. No surprise about bread, cakes and alcohol, but big surprises about indulging in pasta, potatoes and rice. Wholegrain being the option to keep you going without feeling hungry.

Needless to say I joined the same club as soon as I returned home. I envisaged eating a variety of new, tasty and filling foods while watching the pound drop off. But they didn’t. Quite the opposite. Typical! Weekly weigh-ins showed nothing but gains. By Christmas time I had put on seven pounds. Not the result I was hoping for. In a fit of pique I cancelled my membership and sulked. It obviously wasn’t for me. I was doomed to have an ever-expanding waistline.

By mid-June the following year I was pouring over photos from our family holiday, trying to find any I felt proud to share, but couldn’t. I never forgot how healthy my holiday friend looked, so armed with grit, determination and family assistance, I restarted the plan. The key word here is ‘plan’. I needed to plan the meals a week ahead and shop to the list! I also needed a goal – not an easy one, but achievable and challenging.

My daughter, lovingly referred to as Cost Center 1, bought me a recipe book to go with the slimming club eating plan. We planned the menus together, picking the recipes most likely to appeal to Mr D and Cost Center 2 (my son). I filled the fridge and freezer with everything I needed to stop me from raiding cakes and biscuits.

The biggest change I had to make was inside. What did I really believe I could achieve? Could I lose a whole 14 lb in 4 months? Could I run a 5km charity run in under 30 minutes? Lightbulb moment! The reason I failed last time was lack of self-belief. I was following the same plan but my mindset was different.

To help motivate myself during testing times ( especially with my mother’s cancer diagnosis), I drew up a reward planner. Little fun things for every pound lost, and luxury items at key milestones. Most weeks showed a pound or two falling off nice and steadily. Not only that, but my running times shortened to the point where I was sure I could run the race under my target time. And so I did. I reached my weight target the week before the race and ran my fastest ever 5k!

Six months down the line, and I’m more or less still at target weight. I know what motivates me. I don’t think I can, I know I can, and that’s what helps my healthy body stay fit. Don’t believe the hype about menopausal weight-gain being inevitable. It most certainly isn’t. What’s worked for you?

Wishing you all a healthy and happy day.

Cath xx