Are you in your 40’s and experiencing changes in your sleep quality?
Difficulty in falling asleep or frequent waking during the night?
Are you waking up in the morning and not feeling as refreshed as you used too?
You could be heading into a stage called perimenopause.
Perimenopause is a time of transition when a woman’s ovaries gradually decrease production of oestrogen and progesterone. Then you head into menopause. Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women although menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. From perimenopause to post-menopause, women report sleeping problems and are less satisfied with their sleep.
There are many reasons why sleep problems tend to appear during this transition time and they include hot flashes, mood disorders, stress, changes in relationships, increase in physical pain problems and increases in urination. Sleep problems are often accompanied by depression and anxiety.
- Hot flashes during the night, a surge of body heat accompanied by intense sweating are the response of the body to a drop in oestrogen levels. Night sweats make sleep uncomfortable and difficult; waking up regularly drenched in sweat and then having trouble falling back asleep. This will then lead to feeling tired in the morning.
- Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and mood swings are exacerbated by sleep problems during this time and sleep problems are exacerbated by anxiety and depression. One of oestrogens functions is to regulate other hormones and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. They work to lift and stabilise mood and have a direct role in regulating sleep-wake cycles.
The decline in progesterone, with its calming, relaxing effects and oestrogen balancing effects, can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, irritability and agitation. Racing thoughts and persistent feelings of stress make it difficult for many women experiencing menopause to unwind.
- Stress and frustration can influence sleep quality. Oestrogen plays a critical role in memory and supports the overall health of the brain. Progesterone levels are linked to verbal memory and cognitive abilities. Decreasing testosterone levels are linked to problems with memory and concentration.
As hormone levels change this can affect levels of concentration, focus and memory. These feelings of frustration can lead to difficulty falling asleep. Frustration and confusion from the changes can also influence your relationships. Changes in sex drive can create tension and distance in relationships and this can cause worry and anger that compromise sleep.
- Sleeplessness itself can trigger conflict in relationships. Lack of sleep makes women and men more reactive and more likely to experience anger and frustration.
- Physical pain. Women’s menstrual cycle during this time can be accompanied by heavy periods with cramping, bloating and breast tenderness. Lower oestrogen levels can also contribute to headaches and migraines. Muscle, joint pain and stiffness can occur due to oestrogens role in reducing inflammation.
The presence of pain makes it harder to fall asleepand to stay asleep. This fragmented sleep lowers your pain threshold thus making you more sensitive to pain.
- Frequent urination especially at night. Declining oestrogen levels lead to a thinning of vaginal tissue making bladder control an issue for many women in menopause as does a weakening of the pelvic muscles. Waking at night interrupts your sleep and interferes with sleep quality and quantity.
So, what are some of the things that you can do to help you cope during this time.
* Eat healthy. Eat plenty of lean protein, green vegetables, good fats and complex carbohydrates. Avoid large meals and drinks especially before bedtime. Maintain a regular and healthy weight. Spicy and acidic foods can trigger hot flashes. Foods rich in soy can help minimise hot flashes; just ensure they are whole soy bean products.
* Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, especially before bedtime. Try calming herbal teas such as chamomile and lemon balm to relax your mind.
* Dress in lightweight clothes to improve sleep. Avoid heavy, insulating blankets and keep the bedroom well ventilated. Check your mattress to ensure that it is supportive enough as well as your pillow. We spend a lot of our life in our bed so make it a little slice of heaven when you enter your bedroom!
* Reduce stress and worry as much as possible. Try relaxation techniques, massage and exercise. If you are feeling depressed or anxious then seeing and talking to a health professional would be recommended.
* Develop good pre-sleep habits and rituals. Try not to get onto the web or read, watch or listen to anything that might be disturbing or thought provoking prior to going to bed. Also avoid anything stressful near bedtime. Instead have a relaxing bath, read a book that is relaxing or at least not thought provoking and drink a lovely calming herbal tea.
* Keep a journal or notebook to write thoughts down and get them onto paper instead of in your head.
* Listen to guided meditations, practice yoga or do some exercise that you love to keep you healthy and vibrant.
Without enough sleep on a regular basis every part of your life can suffer. From your health, relationships, work place, confidence, and energy levels. Make sleep your priorit
Nicole Haak is an experienced Melbourne Naturopath whose gentle approach and warm nature enable her to be an empathetic and supportive practitioner who takes a genuine interest in her clients’ needs. She has a deep passion for what she does. This is evident by her holistic approach to helping her patients find solutions to their health concerns and improve their quality of life.