From food & diet to lifestyle & wellbeing, alternative therapies to the very latest on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), Hot Flush is the best place to find supportive, straightforward tips and advice on how women can best deal with the menopause.
This week we’re delighted to have the Co-Founder of hotflush.info, Jo McEwan, give us the low-down on the science behind the menopause, and provide some fantastic tips to help you get to sleep when experiencing the more common and troublesome menopausal symptoms.
The alarm sounds, and it’s a new dawn and a new day. Yet for a staggering 61% of women, it might also be the start of a fatigue-filled day as they reel from the repercussions of insomnia in the menopause.
Whereas around 1 in 4 women will be un-phased by the menopause and barely notice that it’s happening, the other 3 in 4 aren’t so lucky and experience a wide range of symptoms. Whilst insomnia isn’t solely a menopausal woe, with 30 to 50 per cent of the population suffering at one time or another, retiring hormones seem to act as a trigger for many women.
Symptoms of the perimenopause can start 3-10 years before menopause. With the average age of the menopause being 51, women may experience symptoms from their early 40s onwards, yet fail to realise that they’re the consequence of hormonal havoc.
It seems that there’s a top 10 of the more common and troublesome symptoms, with sleep issues being up near the not-so-coveted, number 1 spot. It’s important to recognise this however – that disrupted sleep can be a perimenopausal symptom – as by recognising the root of the problem, women can take appropriate action to lessen the impact.
But, why now?
In the lead up to the menopause, women’s ovaries gradually decrease in their production of oestrogen, and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone. Shifting hormone ratios can consequently, severely impact on a woman’s ability to fall asleep, making them vulnerable to other environmental and/or life stressors, disrupting sleep only further! You know the ones – work, finances, family, relationship worries and so the list goes on. And of course, these worries peak at about 3 in the morning!
Add to these worries, unwelcome hot flushes, the bane of many a menopausal woman’s life and quality sleep is near impossible. Hot flushes (night sweats) cause a surge of adrenaline, awaking your brain from sleep, producing sweat and a change of temperature. It then may take quite some time for the adrenaline to ebb, before you can settle down into sleep again.
So, knowing hormonal and social issues are at play, what can women do?
Think in advance; don’t eat too late, avoid caffeine (it takes 6 hours plus to leave your system, even the healthier green tea), try tea blends created to aid sleep, or try simple camomile loose leaf tea. Don’t turn to the wine bottle – alcohol exacerbates sleep problems etc.
Maximising magnesium intake will calm and promote a sleepy feeling. Best consumed via a healthy diet, women should eat more luscious dark leafy greens, nuts, fish and legumes. Magnesium can be taken as a supplement, ideally as an oral spray that’s absorbed quickly into the blood stream. Even better, add 2-3 handfuls of magnesium flakes to a warm bath just before you hit the sack, calming and blissful! Whilst enjoying a bedtime bath, the burning of an indulgent candle or essential oil containing lavender, frankincense, cedarwood or bergamot will give the olfactory senses a treat.
What we wear in bed can also affect sleep. According to research, wearing soft woollen socks in bed could help people get to sleep quicker. Warming feet before bedtime gives the brain a clear signal that it’s time to switch-off and sleep, helps blood vessels to dilate and increases circulation allowing our central body temperature to fall which may translate into fewer incidences of those nightmare night-sweats. Some share Marilyn Monroe’s taste in sleepwear, sleeping naked, but that won’t deal with the fallout from night sweats and can cause soggier sheets. There are PJs out there that can cool your body down and wick away the sweat that keeps you awake.
Think environment! Phones should be left on the other side of the bedroom door, the blue light affects production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. The bedroom shouldn’t be too hot and keeping a window open will help you, if not your partner! If night sweats are an issue, try bamboo sheets which will wick away sweat helping to keep you dry.
Fit blackout blinds or curtains, and wear an eye mask to create a dark sleep space, enabling you to enjoy the sound of silence. And if silence isn’t your thing, wearing head bands with built-in speakers, or using specially-designed pillow speakers to play white noise/music may help you finally switch off and drop off.
For most women, menopausal symptoms will improve, but in the meantime, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia sessions (CBT-I), delivered by a certified therapist or online via CBT-I Coach (downloadable from the App Store), can help alter any unhelpful thoughts or behaviours that are preventing you from sleeping.
Whilst the menopause transition can be discombobulating, normal service should resume. We say use perimenopause as an opportunity to press the reset button on your approach to health and well-being. After all, there’s a lot more loving and living to be done!
Come and visit us at hotflush.info where we offer positivity and endeavour to bring colour to a grey subject!