Insomnia, or sleeplessness is very common for women experiencing the changes that come with menopause. It can take several forms – it can be difficulty falling alseep, or waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep or waking up several times a night. I have experienced, and continue to experience, all these personally and they are not much fun. Whatever form it takes, it can lead to tiredness, fatigue, lack of concentration, lack of motivation and brain fog. If it becomes a long term issue, it can also lead to anxiety and depression. And it just takes the joy out of this wonderful thing called life.
Tips for Better Sleep
There are are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep;
Keep the room dark – light can play havoc with your sleep cycle and either hinder getting to sleep or wake you up too early. I can vouch for this, I find it very hard to get to sleep and stay asleep if there is light in the room. Try blockout curtains or blinds, they work a treat. I’ve even used blankets or doonas ( quilt, duvet ) to cover non blockout curtains when sleeping away from home.
Don’t use devices just before going to bed – don’t have TV’s or computers in the bedroom and stop using the phone or tablet around about an hour before bed. Even though you can get blue light filter apps that change the blue light to yellow and that helps, it’s not just the light that’s the problem it’s the stimulation to your brain. If you like to read to relax, use books. Personally I find reading books to be too stimulating at night, but this seems to be uncommon. No one else I know or have asked has this problem.
Avoid caffeine for several hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a well-known sleep inhibitor, so avoid tea, coffee, chocolate, red bull and any other energy drinks before bed. Even decaffeinated tea and coffee still has a small amount of caffeine, which could upset your sleep if you are sensitive to it. Stick to herbal teas which are naturally caffeine free.
Some herbal teas are designed specifically to help the body relax and get to sleep. One such tea is Casimiroa, which is the dried leaves of the Casimiroa tree and has a mild sedative effect. Another, more well known is Chamomile tea. There are lots of other teas available now, too – all of them best taken around an hour before going to bed.
Exercise – is great for the body and has multiple benefits one of which is promoting better sleep. Vigorous exercise, however, such as running, cycling, swimming etc is best done before evening. Do it too close to bedtime and it will probably keep you awake. Keep to gentle, stress relieving exercise such as yoga and tai chi or walking gently in the evening – although these are good anytime. Everyone is different and myself I found dancing to be the exception to this rule – I could dance all night, go straight to bed and sleep really well.
Try to avoid eating a large meal just before bed. Allow at least a couple of hours for ‘dinner to go down’. Heavy digestion interferes with sleeping – although it does depend on what you eat, as well. A light meal in evening, like soup, or salad would be better than something heavy. I find I can get away with eating the evening meal late every now and then, without it interfering with my sleep.
Avoid alcoholic drinks in the evening – yes, they may put you to sleep at first, but they will also wake you up later! Alcohol also affects the quality of your sleep, you tend not to get to the deeper stages of sleep which are when your body restores itself. And, I find I wake up feeling tired even if I don’t have a hangover or headache. Actually avoid drinking too much of anything in the evening – even water. Otherwise you will have to get up in the night to use the bathroom.
Try keeping the bedroom cool – cooler is better for sleeping. I find a temperature of 20-22*C (68 -72*F ) works best for me and I use a ceiling fan with the air conditioner or just the ceiling fan. If you don’t have a ceiling fan, an ordinary desktop fan or pedestal fan will suffice.
Keep the bedroom quiet – a bit of a challenge if you live in a noisy area or near a main road. There are devices called white noise generators and they are amazing at blocking out external noise. A fan, with a constant, gentle whirr can also block out other noise – if the whirr of the fan itself doesn’t disturb you. It took a while but I have gotten used to the sound of a fan – and now I don’t hear it anymore.
Take a bath, with some magnesium chloride flakes in it. Try 1/2 a cup to start and up it to one cup or one and a 1/2 cups of magnesium flakes in warm – not hot – water and try and soak for 30 minutes or more. Magnesium is incredibly important for the body yet it’s better to absorb it through the skin rather than take it orally. You can get a magnesium oil to put on your skin, but a bath is fun and it worked a treat for me! Had the best sleep in months after a magnesium bath.
Try deep, slow, belly breathing – works best for me if I wake up in the night and find it hard to go back to sleep.
Use wicking pyjamas – ones that absorb sweat and wick it away from the body so that you are not so drenched when having night sweats. Fibres like bamboo do this, bamboo in particular is really soft and comfortable as well. Personally I like no pyjamas is summer – but you run the risk of drenching the sheets. It’s easier to wash pyjamas or a nightie.
Essential Oils – either one or a blend of essential oils can help you get off to sleep. Lavender is well known for helping to relax and support sleep and ylang ylang, also well known for winding down ( and a favorite oil for romance ) are two oils that can be used on their own. Use 6 drops in a diffuser ( don’t use a candle or tea light diffuser in the bedroom, bit of a fire risk ) about 30 minutes before youwant to go to bed. Don’t have a diffuser? Put 10-12 drops into a clean, 60ml ( 2 oz) glass spray bottle and fill up with distilled water. Shake and use the spray on your pillow or just spray around the room.
If you love essential oils and prefer to have a blend, a combination of lavender, ylang ylang, clary sage, grapefruit and frankincense works well as a sleep enhancer. Blend 20 drops each of lavender, grapefruit and frankincense in a clean essential oil bottle, then add 12 drops of ylang ylang and 6 drops of clary sage. Allow to blend together for at least 30 minutes before using. Use 6 drops of the blend in a diffuser, and put on 30 minutes before bed. No more than that, a little goes a long way. Or use it in a spray bottle, same thing as single oil, 10 to 12 drops in 60ml glass spray bottle and fill with water. Spray around room or on pillow. Or 8 to 10 drops in a relaxing bath, with some epsom salts in too. A word of warning – essential oils are a concentrated product of plant origin, they are powerful and need to be treated with care and respect. Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they cannot harm. Always use with care and discontinue if you have any bad reaction. And there are a few places they should NEVER EVER go. Never, ever, ever put any essential oil in your eyes or inside your ears. Don’t even put it too close. EVER! Eyes and ear drums and canals are delicate and easily damaged. It will hurt. A lot. Don’t do it.
Also, don’t store oils in plastic bottles or cups. They react with the plastic and will eat through it. Store essential oils in glass, always.
Next word of warning, not all essential oils are the same. Some are carefully made from organic plants with rigorous testing and these will naturally be more expensive than those made from conventional ingredients. Or in a lab, or with lesser quality oils. For best results, use best quality oils, like Young Living or doTerra. There are other good brands out there, just these are the only 2 I use on myself and I can recommend them personally.
Homeopathic remedies – can also be useful. The beauty of homeopathic remedies is that they are completely safe and have absolutely no contraindications. So you can use them no matter what medication, supplements or whatever you are already taking. Homeopathic remedies are also more available than ever before, even some pharmacies stock them. You can buy remedies and take them yourself or you can also visit a homeopath. Homeopathic remedies are made in pillule or liquid form, both are equally effective, it comes down to personal preference. The pillule form is usually very inexpensive.
If none of these help – it would be a good idea to see a health professional. There might be something else going on.