The importance of sleep can’t be denied, but what happens when a woman’s body naturally makes it difficult as you age? Here’s how you can help yourself sleep better as you enter a new stage in life.
Can’t fall asleep, or when you do, you can’t stay asleep? It’s one of the most common complaints of women over the age of 40, and you can blame it on your hormones.
Here’s one of the lesser-known facts about perimenopause and early menopause –
You can pretty much say goodbye to a good night’s sleep.
The hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings get lots of attention, but for more than 60% of women, it’s the inability to get a good night’s sleep that’s the last straw.
Sleep problems in women are worse between the ages of 40-55, and are usually related to menopause. They can range from having trouble falling asleep, to waking up earlier than you’d like to, or even waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep.
So what is the connection between sleep and hormones?
The biggest contributor to women’s sleep problems is hormonal changes, especially the sudden drop in estrogen that triggers hot flashes. When hot flashes occur at night, you may wake up drenched in sweat, and unable to get back to sleep. Progesterone, a hormone that plays a role in sleep, also declines in perimenopause. As we age, our body also produces less melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycles.
Another major reason many have trouble falling and staying asleep is stress.
Menopause itself doesn’t cause stress, but it does trigger the emotional baggage that comes with it. When you feel like you’re suddenly living in someone else’s body, that causes the stress. Stress makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, which in turn leaves you feeling exhausted, unproductive, and more stressed. Chronic stress can also wreak havoc on your cortisol levels (the “fight or flight” hormone), keeping levels too high at night, which makes it even harder to fall asleep.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Health professionals recommend getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but not just so you can feel rested and refreshed the next day. Research studies show that those who don’t get enough sleep for long periods of time have difficulty managing their weight, and are at increased risk for depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
So what can you do to balance your hormones to sleep better?
If you’re in the “I can’t get a good night’s sleep no matter what I do” club, try to stick to as consistent of a sleep-wake schedule as you can, and make sure the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable for sleep (usually around 65 degrees). Here are a few additional tips:
1. Limit caffeine.
Avoid caffeine-containing foods like coffee, black tea, and chocolate at least 3-4 hours before sleep. Also, limit alcohol – it can make you drowsy, but also tends to cause you to have a more restless sleep.
2. Unplug from the devices.
Turn off your computer, iPad, phone, TV, and any other source of “blue light” – it reduces melatonin production.
3. Try natural remedies.
Try taking adaptogenic herbs which can help balance your cortisol levels, and allow your body adapt to various types of stress. Good choices include Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, and Rhodiola. In addition, some people find taking a magnesium supplement later in the day helps to calm and relax them so they can fall asleep easier.
4. Exercise regularly.
Get good, regular exercise. Although a recent study found that doing yoga or aerobic exercise didn’t have a direct impact on quality of sleep during perimenopause, other research studies have found that regular exercise results in fewer hot flashes and milder menopause symptoms, and that will increase your odds of sleeping through the night.
Wishing you a better night’s sleep!
For more helpful sleep tips, click over to the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: TY CARLSON
Anne Danahy, MS, RD is a Scottsdale-AZ-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant specializing in women’s health and healthy aging. Anne is passionate about teaching people how to make the science of nutrition more delicious on their plates. Visit her at Craving Something Healthy.