One of the first casualties of the menopause years can be sleep. We have evolved to have periods of sleep during our daily cycle because it is essential to our survival. Our physical and mental systems are working hard while we are asleep carrying out maintenance jobs, recharging our energy batteries and making sense of our memories and experiences from the day.
We know a lot about the importance and benefits of sleep from what happens to people who don’t get enough of it such as shift workers. Regular, good quality sleep rejuvenates your body. It enhances your health: lowering your risk of heart problems, reducing your stress levels, reducing inflammation in your system, helping you to control your weight and reducing the risk of some cancers. Good sleep aids your memory, helping to clear brain fog. It gives you more energy and helps to lift your mood.
There are lots of reasons why we might start to experience poor sleep during perimenopause. Let’s start with the changes in our reproductive hormones. The decrease in the levels of estrogen and progesterone can give rise to night sweats, and if you have experienced those you know just how they can wake you up and leave you soaked and unable to get back to sleep.
Then there’s your hectic lifestyle in the years around your 40s and 50s. At home you may be juggling the needs of your partner, children and ageing parents, while at work you may be dealing with increased responsibility, changing processes and structures or other challenges.
All of this can lead to feelings of being stressed and unable to cope. In these circumstances your adrenal glands produce the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline can disrupt your sleep patterns, keeping you awake at night going over and over the things you are worried about.
And finally, there is the nutrition and other substances that you are putting into your body. Some foods disrupt sleep such as foods and drinks with a high sugar content, caffeine, and spicy foods. Alcohol may lull you off to sleep but you do not experience a natural sleep cycle. And it is full of sugar and empty calories. Smoking cigarettes releases stimulants into your system, affects your breathing and can contribute to insomnia.
Your sleep may also be affected by any medications that you are taking. Check the side-effects set out on the packaging.
So what can you do to improve your sleep?
Sleep is the ‘wonder drug’ that can improve your health and extend your life. Make sure you are getting a regular dose!
Pat Duckworth is the award Winning Author of Hot Women, Cool Solutions; How to control menopause symptoms using mind/body techniques
For more menopause info check out her facebook page.