The Sleep Guide: How to Get a Better Night's Rest in Menopause
Sleep issues are incredibly common during peri/menopause. Hormonal, physical, and psychological changes can all disrupt the circadian rhythm in their own ways, leading to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. And even a single night of inadequate sleep can have a significant adverse effect on how you feel the next day, both mentally and physically — it’s tough to do your best at home or at work when you’re running on just a few hours’ sleep.
So how do you get back on track when perimenopause is wreaking havoc on your sleep cycle?
Cut out sleep-disrupting habits
With all the changes that happen during perimenopause, you may find that certain habits that didn’t interfere with sleep in the past may suddenly be keeping you up. Excess stimuli including blue light from electronic devices, late-night snacks, caffeine, nightcaps, and even evening workouts may prevent you from being able to get rest.
So make sure to avoid insomnia triggers in the evening. When it’s time to wind down, avoid using electronics, especially if you’re prone to reading, watching, or listening to media that is overly stimulating. If your hunger is so distracting it may keep you awake, feel free to enjoy a light snack, but avoid things that are heavy, spicy, or rich to avoid sleep-disrupting indigestion. Create a cut-off point for caffeine consumption in your day, so your body has enough time to work it out of its system. According to the FDA, the half-life of caffeine can be between four and six hours, which means it can take eight to 12 hours for a caffeinated beverage to completely leave your system. If you want to keep caffeine in your diet, try to not drink any within that eight-to-12-hour window before your intended bedtime. If that’s not enough, consider cutting out caffeine altogether.
Alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but drinking before bed can disrupt your circadian rhythm and decrease the overall quality of sleep. Avoid alcoholic drinks for at least three hours before bed. And while exercising daily can improve your overall quality of sleep, working out too close to bedtime can create an increase in both endorphins and core body temperature that can keep you awake. Avoid high intensity exercise an hour before your bedtime routine to get the benefits of exercise without risking sleeplessness.
Create a new sleep routine
If you want to make sure your circadian rhythm stays on beat, you have to set the metronome, with a great bedtime routine. If you want to get started with some sleep-inducing habits, try:
- Start your bedtime routine at the same time every night. Consistency is the key to creating good habits and sleep is no exception.
Make sure your bedroom is cool. Heat disrupts sleep, so much so that studies are finding that rising temperatures due to climate change are affecting sleep worldwide. The common recommendation for room temperature while sleeping is in the range of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You can also hack your body heat by taking a warm bath or shower before bed. The warmth of the water raises the temperature of the skin which, in turn, signals your body to lower its core temperature so it’s easier to fall asleep.
- To avoid the sleep deprivation that can come with hot flashes and night sweats, invest in wares that keep you cool and comfortable. Cooling bedding and pajamas are made with fabrics that are breathable and moisture-wicking to keep you cool and dry. Some women find a simple bedside fan works wonders as far as making their nights more comfortable. And a gel sleep mask that you store in the refrigerator before bed can keep you cool alongside the added benefits of light deprivation.
If aches and pains are keeping you awake, try developing a regular daytime stretching routine.
Try a sleep-encouraging beverage like tart cherry juice or non-caffeinated herbal tea. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin and tryptophan, two compounds that encourage sleepiness. Drinking hot tea before bed can help cause a similar effect on your body temperature to that of a warm bath or shower. Plus, there are several types of herbal teas that have reported sedative properties. Do not drink too close to bedtime if you have overactive bladder that wakes you up at night.
- Reading before bed improves the overall quality of sleep. So after you stash away your electronics and tuck into bed, pick up a book and get a few pages in.
If all else fails…
If making adjustments to your lifestyle and environment doesn’t solve your sleeplessness, bring your issue to your doctor. Sleep deprivation is linked to serious health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression, so your doctor will want to get on top of finding a solution as quickly as possible.
Sleep medications or supplements may be a help for you, but consult your doctor before starting either to identify any complications there may be with your current medications or conditions. They may also refer you to mental health treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which can train you to identify and release intrusive thoughts that are preventing you from falling asleep. Your doctor is there to support your health holistically, and sleep is a big part of that, so don’t hesitate to go to them as soon as you recognize a problem.
Considering how sleep depends on regularity, it makes sense that when your body is going through perimenopausal changes, you might struggle with sleep. But for a lot of women, small adjustments in their nighttime routine can lead to a significant improvement. Try what you can at home, but if you need help from a professional, never hesitate to ask.