3 sleep problems during menopause

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Ask Eileen

27 August 2018

Sleep and menopause

Now, sleep is a huge issue and for a lot of women, disrupted sleep and poor sleep is often one of the first signs that their hormones are changing.

And we know that if you don't get a good night's sleep, that will affect not just your mood, it will affect your energy the next day, it will affect your immune system, it can make you a lot weaker and more prone to infections.  

It can affect your weight control, which is another very important issue in the menopause, and it can affect your general health as well. So it's really important to try and get back to some kind of good sleeping pattern whenever these issues suddenly appear. All that's happening really, in most cases, is that as your oestrogen starts to fall, that interferes with a good sleeping pattern.  

You tend to have a much shallower sleep, which means that a lot more external things and internal things can end up waking you up, whereas beforehand, you would have probably quite happily slept through them all. So I'm going to look at these three issues.

Sleep problem 1: Why do I struggle to get to sleep during menopause?

And the first one is that you struggle to get off to sleep. Now, I know for me, I used to be able to put my head on the pillow and drop off within a few minutes. So, during the menopause and even now, I find that sometimes it can take me half an hour or even three-quarters of an hour to get to sleep, and that's when I'm tired. So it can be really hard and very, very wearying.  

So as well as the hormonal changes causing it, it can be due to stress. If we've had a really busy day, our mind becomes so overactive that it just doesn't seem to switch off when we're ready for bed. We can be physically exhausted, we can be mentally exhausted, but our brain just keeps going and going, and that will be a real big block in helping us to get off to sleep.  

It can also be your bedroom clutter, and I don't just mean the state of your bedroom in general, but do you look at your phone when you go to bed? Do you have a computer? Do you have a TV? So, are you doing things when you're in bed that are actually stimulating the mind such as watching TV and answering your emails?  

And that can have a big effect. And we know that the light, especially from things like computers and phones, can interfere with certain chemicals in the brain that can promote sleep.

What can help?

So what to do here is have a really good sleep routine. And there are a number of good ones on our website, so there'll be links to these so you can see all the good things that you can do.  

But the most important one is don't have any electrical equipment in the bedroom. Just have that as a nice quiet sanctuary where you can retire to, relax, and fall asleep. You can look at deep breathing when you go into bed. I know it sounds a bit silly, but this, counting sheep, it's to do with focusing the mind on something other than all the day-to-day issues.  

So just one of the simple breathing techniques, counting in for four, holding your breath for one, exhaling for four, holding for one, and so on, can very often calm you both physically and mentally to help with the sleep as well. You can also look at our Sleep Well Dissolvable Granules. These combine Lemon balm*, lettuce, L-tryptophan, and magnesium to contribute to a calm, restful sleep.

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Sleep problem 2: Why do I keep waking at night during menopause?

Problem number two is, "Why do I keep waking up in the middle of the night?" Now, there are quite a few different issues here that can cause this. Like I said before, if you're having a much shallower sleep, then other things can wake you up that wouldn't have done beforehand.  

The main things would be things like your night sweats. If you're getting night sweats, that's really going to wake you up. And very often, if you sweat a lot, you have to get up and change your clothes. The minute you turn the light on, your whole brain has woken up, and that makes it all the more difficult to go back to sleep again. We know the liver can be involved in here and especially if you're waking up roughly between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., that's your liver's busiest time.  

And if it's really struggling, which it often does in the menopause, then that energy that's going on within the liver can be enough just to break through your sleep and wake you up. It can be the bladder. You know, our bladders get weaker as we go through the menopause, and we can end up having to get up two or three times during the night. 

What can help?

The really important thing with this one is that you need to drink plenty in order to keep your bladder happy during the night. I know it sounds a bit counterproductive, but having a small glass of water, maybe a shot size of warm water before you go to bed can often help to keep your bladder working better.  

If you don't drink, then your urine is going to become very acidic and very concentrated. And if your bladder is already sensitive, then this acidic urine is going to irritate your bladder, and that's going to wake you up two or three times during the night. So drinking water is really important. You can look at doing some gentle liver work.  

Again, I've done a blog on this. There's links here. You can even do a little gentle liver cleanse to help the liver along if you wish to do that. If you're troubled by night sweats, you can try the sage. One tablet with your evening meal can often be really effective.

And if anxiety is an issue, then you can take an extra magnesium supplement with your evening meal as well, maybe 100 or 200 milligrams, and very often, that will help to relax your muscles if you find that tension is an issue before you try and get to sleep.  

If you do wake up in the middle of the night and you need to get out of bed, if possible, try not to switch the light on, and that might make it a little bit easier to get back to sleep.

Sleep problem 3: Why do I keep waking up early during menopause?

The last one, number three, is that a lot of women tell me that they wake up really early in the morning and then sometimes they can't get back to sleep. And then just as they're about to drop off, the alarm wakes up.  

So, again, this can be due to your oestrogen, it can be due to general stress. And I've just posted a blog about anxiety first thing in the morning, so if you are waking up really early, and you're rushing straight into an anxiety attack, then please just double-check with that one for more tips on how to cope with this. 

What can help?

If you do find that the lighter mornings are waking you up, if you find that it's the beautiful birds' song or traffic, then maybe go for these blinds that block out all the light. Some women find that they can sleep a lot better with earplugs in as well just to drown out all the external noises as well.  

If you do wake up reasonably early and your mind is going, we've got a lovely remedy called Night Essence which you can take. You don't have to switch the light on, you can just take a few drops, drop them straight unto the tongue, and very often, that will help to get you back off to sleep, even if it's for only an extra hour or so.  

The other two important things that can really help with sleep are, have a good snack before bed, and I've recommended this for the anxiety first thing in the morning. If your blood sugars get really low during the night, and they tend to become much more panicky, then that will wake you up. And because it's to do with the nervous system that you don't realise that you're hungry, you just feel maybe palpitations, so you're suddenly are totally wide awake.  

So a nice healthy snack, maybe about an hour before bed, can often help to keep you asleep just that little bit longer and a bit more comfortable. And the other thing, if everything all else fails, what's the state of your mattress? Have you had a new one recently? Is this an old one? Check your pillow as well.  

I find that if I have an uncomfortable pillow, I really can't sleep well. And sometimes investing in those little memory foam mattress toppers, if you don't want to go to the bother of buying a completely new mattress, can make a huge amount of difference to your sleep. And a lot of these toppers now have special ventilation in them, and that will also help to keep you cooler if you're suffering from night sweats.  

So, as you can see, sleep is a big issue, but there are lots of things you can do just to help yourself get that little bit better night's sleep. If any of you out there have a great tip, one that you found works really well for you, please share it with us. And I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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