Learn strategies to master your midlife sleep so that you wake each morning feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day.
I don’t know about you, but I always look forward to a good night’s sleep after a long day. So, I find it very frustrating to end up tossing and turning instead of getting the quality sleep I so desperately want.
Women between 45 – 55 should aim for between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep per night. This is just a guideline and not a definitive rule because some people need less sleep while others require more. Overall, if you wake up during the night on a regular basis and don’t feel that your sleep is restful, that is a sign that your sleep is not as good as it needs to be.
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Lack of sleep is usually a combination of things ranging from our partner’s snoring, increased stress, to fluctuating hormones. Women in perimenopause (the time before the onset of menopause, when symptoms begin to present themselves) have the hardest time sleeping, followed closely by post-menopausal women, according to a recent study by The National Center for Health Statistics.
It is common for hormones to fluctuate during the day and often times become worse at night, making existing hot flashes more intense or triggering new hot flashes and night sweats during the evening and overnight hours.
Why is Sleep Important During Menopause?
It appears sleep can affect so many things you may not associate with it, such as your hunger, your metabolic rate, your weight, your immune system, and even the compassion you feel for others. All of this affects our thinking, our choices, and even our emotional state.
Lack of Sleep Makes Menopause Worse
Poor sleep can worsen symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
“Insufficient sleep will exacerbate other issues associated with menopause including mood disturbance and weight gain.”
Natalie Dautovich, National Sleep Foundation
Progesterone decline may be involved in sleep disturbance since it has a sleep-inducing effect. Melatonin also decreases as we age and is influenced by decreasing hormone levels during perimenopause, which adds to the problem. Joint pain and bladder issues are also a common result of estrogen decline that can cause sleep disruption.
It Affects Daytime Cognitive Ability
Your daily sleep quality may increase or decrease your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that women are more affected by this than men, with women making up 2/3 of all Alzheimer’s patients.
Puts You at a Greater Risk of Anxiety
When you are unable to fall asleep and stay asleep, the worries of the day are much more likely to keep you awake as they replay over and over in your mind, leaving the door open for anxiety and even depression.
Tips for a Better Night of Sleep
1. Schedule It
Keep to a regular bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends or days off. Maintain a schedule that allows you to get between 7 – 8 hours of sleep. This will train your brain to know what to do if you do it consistently.
2. Curb the Caffeine
Stay clear of that coffee pot in the afternoon or later. When the afternoon doldrums hit, remember that reaching for a cup of joe or cola can greatly impact your sleep – even a full eight hours later. As a general rule, avoid caffeine anytime after 2:00 PM.
3. Get Daily Exercise
“We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.”
Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. , Medical Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital
Women that engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise may notice an improvement in sleep quality as soon as that evening. Try not to get that exercise in too close to bedtime, however, because your body temperature signals the body clock it is time to be awake.
4. Avoid Eating & Drinking Late
If you indulge in that occasional glass of wine before heading off to bed, your body will still be digesting it as you lie down, which could affect your quality of sleep. The same goes for eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime. A good rule of thumb is to avoid eating and drinking within 3 hours of going to bed.
5. Stay Cool
6. Turn the Screen Off
Exposure to too much blue light at bedtime makes falling asleep difficult. Your melatonin hormone production gets blocked by blue light coming off of cell phones and televisions. For that reason, avoid electronics as you lie in bed.
7. Keep It Dark & Cool
Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to keep your bedroom dark, especially if there are distracting lights coming through your window. It is also a benefit for the room to be cool, ideally at about 68°F, and well ventilated. And, limit noise as much as possible.
Meditate, breathe deeply, and other ways of coping with stress such as keeping a “worry journal” can help to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. These practices before bed can go a long way towards putting you in the mood for sleep.
9. Take a Supplement
If falling asleep is always a struggle, consider taking a supplement. There are many supplements on the market that promise everything under the sun. While melatonin and magnesium are well known for helping to improve sleep, many of the over-the-counter varieties contain far less of the vitamins and minerals than you may think.
I began taking a supplement called Lumity about a month ago. I really wasn’t sure about it, to be honest. I read the claims that it improved sleep, but I took it with a grain of salt. Then, I tried it for myself. No lie – on the very first night – I fell asleep immediately and stayed asleep the entire night. I couldn’t even remember the last time that had happened prior.
Since then, I am happy to say, it’s become a regular occurrence. Because I have been sleeping so well, I am finally not tired when I wake up.
‘Lumity supports your best (optimum) health so that you have the freedom, strength and energy to fully pursue what makes you happiest. When your health is strong and vibrant, you are no longer defined by your age.’
Sara Palmer Hussey, PhD, creator of Lumity
In addition to better sleep, this nutrient rich supplement had a few other benefits that I wasn’t even expecting:
I have been plagued with that awful symptom of menopause called brain fog. The memory loss from one minute to the next is real, and it’s horrible. I remember crying to my doctor not too long ago that I was afraid dementia was setting in. She assured me I wasn’t losing my mind, it was just menopause.
Since I began taking Lumity, I have noticed a boost in my memory. I can actually recall why I walked into the kitchen now, and the foggy brain is clearing up allowing me to focus easier. Maybe that’s from taking the supplement or maybe that’s from actually getting decent sleep each night, I’m not sure. Either way, I’ll take it!
Less Dry Patches
If you are a regular reader, you know I suffer from rosacea. While I have been able to get a good handle on the redness finally (you can read about that here), I still had the dry skin associated with it. In the past month, the dry patches on my cheeks have all but disappeared.
I have been impressed with Lumity so far and will update this article as I continue to take it.
You should always seek the advice of your doctor before beginning any new supplement.
If after trying these methods of improving your sleep habits, you are still having difficulties, ask your doctor if there may be a medical reason for the lack of sleep. Things such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea can be affecting your sleep. You’ll want to be diagnosed and treated so that you may enjoy restful sleep again on a regular basis.
Check out my other posts for more menopause-related information:
Best Foods to Control Menopause
Rosacea and Menopause Acne
Why it’s Important to Track Your Menopause Symptoms
3 Must-Read books on Perimenopause
Hot Flashes: What Causes Them & How to Get Relief
By putting these practices in place, you will be able to improve your sleep habits so that you feel refreshed and renewed for the new day.