How to sleep well during the menopause
Sleep is an issue for many people in general. Still, during menopause, it is a symptom commonly cited by women as being an issue. The severity and duration of sleep difficulties are different amongst women transitioning to menopause. While some have occasional poor nights of sleep, others suffer chronic and severe sleep difficulties. This lack of sleep is associated with daytime functioning, quality of life, and health while exacerbating other symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog.
According to research, midlife women transitioning from menopause and post-menopause are more likely to report sleep difficulties. The prevalence rates of self-report sleep difficulties range between 40% and 56%, compared to premenopausal women who have rates of 31%1.
Routine is key to getting your sleep on track, but so many of us fail to get into the swing of things. This is despite the fact this it was ingrained in us from an early age when we were put to bed at the same time every night following the same ritual of bath, pyjamas, and bedtime story.
Establishing a sleep ritual is an excellent place to start when trying to get your sleep back on track. This must be personal to you and could include bathing with your favourite oils or switching your phone off at night. Much of this is indeed common sense, but it doesn’t mean everyone is taking the time to put any of it into action. We complain more about sleep problems than taking action.
Try some of these simple tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
1. Ditch the electronics
Any light can disrupt sleep as it suppresses the release of melatonin which is the hormone that controls the sleep cycle. The most harmful blue light is emitted from electronic equipment, including phones, laptops, and TVs.
Establishing a time of night (a couple of hours before bed) to put all these bits of equipment aside is a good habit of helping promote a good night’s sleep. It’s not just the blue light but the anxiety that comes with checking emails, messages, and social media that can keep you awake. There is no reason for you to check your emails or social media for a couple of hours before bed. If you’re being honest with yourself, it can probably wait until the morning.
2. Chill out
Find time in the hours leading up to your bedtime to enjoy a bit of self-care. This may seem easier said than done, especially if you have young kids to put to bed and then have work you need to finish up for the day. However, even taking half an hour to bathe or shower an hour before bed is enough to reap the benefits. Try some essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang. They stimulate the olfactory nerve that gives you your sense of smell and sends signals to parts of the brain in charge of emotions and mood.
The hour or so after bathing leads to a drop in body temperature, which signals the release of melatonin to help induce relaxation and sleep by lowering heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
3. Download your thoughts
Keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed to jot down your thoughts before you go to sleep each night. As well as writing down your worries and stresses, include any unfinished tasks that need to be completed the following day, or make a to-do list. If anxiety is a symptom of menopause you struggle with, this is a good one to adopt. People who write down their thoughts, activities, and tasks that need to be completed before going to bed fall asleep much quicker than those who don’t.
Exercise benefits your overall health and sleep in several ways, not least in increasing the time spent in deep sleep (stages 3–4), which is the most physically restorative phase of your sleep cycle. While helping to improve the quality of your sleep, physical activity can also aid in lengthening the amount of time you spend asleep. This is simply down to the fact that you are expending more energy across the day, which helps you to feel tired and ready to rest at bedtime.
5. Create the perfect sleep environment
Whether it’s a ticking clock, cluttered shelves, disorganised wardrobes, heaps of dirty laundry,
piles of work files or the standby lights on electrical equipment, it doesn’t take much for these things to become the focus of attention or even become something to obsess about when trying to fall asleep.
If you don’t need it in the bedroom, don’t keep it in the bedroom. Remove anything not conducive to a restful, relaxing environment; save only your lamp and possibly a candle on your bedside table. And yes, the same rule applies to any digital devices cluttering your bedroom, such as TVs, laptops, and phones; this is your space to sleep, so be strict with yourself.
Organising yourself before bed can also help alleviate stress. Choosing your outfit the night before
and laying it out ready for the morning is a simple way of helping calm a busy mind by contributing to the sense of organization and eliminating any unnecessary stresses when you wake up.
6. Keep cool
Maintaining a stable body temperature can be achieved by creating a comfortable ambient bedroom temperature. In line with this, the type of bedding you choose can influence how hot you feel in bed.
Hot flushes and night sweats leave many women struggling to sleep at night. Always opt for breathable cotton sheets to help keep you feeling relaxed in bed. Make sure you also choose the right duvet. Many duvets come as two tog varieties clipped together, which is helpful to get through the seasons and gives you two in one. Otherwise, as a rule of thumb, you should use a 13.5-tog duvet in winter, 9-tog in autumn, and 4.5-tog in summer. If it’s hot, you might prefer to use a separate sheet or the duvet cover on its own.
Sleeping naked will also not help with hot flushes. Keeping a barrier between you and your bedding will help to keep you the most comfortable. Always opt for crisp light cotton pyjamas when sleeping.
Taking the time to address your habits and sleep environment to develop your sleep ritual is hugely beneficial for sleep. The key is routine and sticking to your version of this will help you get your dreams’ sleep.