How are you sleeping?
Are you struggling to sleep or waking in the night? Perhaps feeling sluggish during the
day? Then you’re not alone. Sleep complaints are common during the menopause.
The menopause is defined as 1 day, the anniversary of your last period. When we talk
about menopausal symptoms, we are actually describing symptoms in peri-menopause,
which usually affects women in their 40s, or sometimes 30s. Symptoms can last as little
as 2 years and as long as 12. Once we’re in the perimenopause zone, sleep becomes elusive due to changing hormone
levels and life stress. In our peri- and post-menopausal years, 53% of women will
experience sleep issues.
A recent study from the North American Menopause society concluded that restless legs
syndrome or REM sleep disorder were not related to the menopause. The study on the
“Effects of menopause on sleep quality and sleep disorders”, demonstrated that
menopause is associated with increased insomnia and sleep apnea.
So what is causing this rise in insomnia during midlife? Just like in puberty, our hormones
fluctuate as they shift in purpose to enable/disable reproduction. Oestrogen levels drop
significantly which can be a problem considering oestrogen is responsible for over 400
functions in the female body; receptors are concentrated in the brain, heart, liver,
reproductive system, bones, joints and muscles, and skin.
“Oestrogen makes us care about others, so when it starts to wane, our
tolerance for putting up with people and their bullshit goes with it”, Maisie Hill,
author of peri menopause power.. Is it time to be that lady who says exactly what she
wants. Sounds like fun!
Progesterone and testosterone also have different functions helpful for good sleep,
including promoting feelings of calm, anti-anxiety and an overall sense of wellbeing and
good energy levels.
So, when your ability to sleep starts to worsen, what can you do about it?
1. Basic sleep hygiene and a regular bedtime; a sleep diary is a really useful tool to
test your perception of your sleep and check in with your sleep saboteurs, such as
coffee, screens and alcohol. You don’t need to get rigid about your routines, but
gaining a better understanding of your habits and making sensible decisions about
when and how often you indulge will work wonders.
2. Sleep education; wise up to what happens to your body as you get ready for sleep,
and during deep sleep. It’s likely you’ll get motivation from all the amazing tasks your
body does subconsciously and at different times of day and night to make some
tweaks that will have significant effect.
3. Treat yourself to some relaxing me-time; this is a great time of life to prioritise you.
Your kids need you less and you can dedicate more time to doing what feels good for
you, which considerably reduces your stress level. It’s time to have fun!
We need to talk about the liver.
This organ is affected by the emotions of anger, irritation and frustration. It is the key
organ for detoxing the mind and body. It’s not a big fan of stress, alcohol, stimulants and
processed food. By looking after your liver, you directly influence the quality and quantity
of your sleep. It’s always better to eat healthily and put more “ease” into your life, than to
go crazy with strict diets and detoxes.
When I learnt more about circadian rhythms, I made little tweaks to my day, because
sleeping well is a 24 hour thing, not just about a good 2 hour sleep routine. Exercise is
best during the morning or daytime, and cardio best avoided in the evening for getting to
sleep easily. If stress levels are within a healthy balance, and you’re eating by 7pm,
you’re less likely to wake up in the night. It’s also good to give yourself time to digest
your thoughts by chatting or journalling, and a wind-down for an hour or two before bed
to calm your nervous system.
There has been a lot of chat in the media lately about the menopause and HRT. Many of
my clients wish to take the natural approach through menopause, which includes sleep
awareness, mind-body-breath connection and positive lifestyle changes. Sometimes
that’s not enough. I encourage people to make their own informed choices, which may or
may not include HRT. I would hate for my clients to feel like they’ve failed if they choose
HRT; the most important thing is to live healthily and enjoy life. Happiness is key.
Nicky is a Sleep RecoveryTM teacher who leads classes, workshops and a Bespoke 6
week Sleep Programme with Chinese Medicine for adults and teens. Her work is holistic
and uses a proven 5 step approach: Body, Energy, Mind, Emotions and Soul. For more
information, go to https://www.loveyogabird.com.