You’re staring into the abyss of the ceiling and it feels like torture. Thoughts are whirling at super-speed and you’re hyper-aware that you’re counting down the hours until your alarm goes off.
Where’s your fast-pass to dreamland? It’s. Just. Not. Fair.
Disturbed sleep and insomnia is common in women entering the perimenopause, as oestrogen levels drop to new-found lows. Oestrogen actually helps us sleep better, allowing our bodies to better use serotonin and other neurochemicals that help us sleep.
As we move through the perimenopause and into the menopause, other symptoms may appear alongside difficulty sleeping too, like night sweats and anxiety. None of which leads to a terrific snooze.
Can you remember the last time you got into bed, fell asleep and stayed asleep? The following tips are designed to help you break out of that cycle and into dreamland. Blissful sleep, here we come.
AVOID CAFFEINE FROM EARLY AFTERNOON
While caffeine may seem like a non-negotiable if you’re struggling to sleep at night (and therefore just want to sleep all day), all it’s doing is giving you a little adrenaline rush which will eventually wear off, leaving you feeling worse.
It also increases cortisol levels – better known as the ‘stress hormone’. If anxious thoughts are keeping you awake at night, literally pumping yourself full of stress isn’t going to give you that long-for peaceful night’s rest.
Kick the caffeinated drinks in the early afternoon, and switch to chamomile tea before bed.
REVAMP YOUR SLEEP SET-UP
Can’t remember when you last changed your mattress? And what about your bedding? A bad workman blames his tools, but in this case he may be on to something.
You should ideally change your mattress once every 10 years at least. Make sure you test new ones out before you commit too – they’re not a small investment.
Why not treat yourself to some new bed linen too? Silk is recommended by dermatologists, and many women swear sleeping on it reduces wrinkles – and everyone will think you’re fancy. Alternatively you could look at bamboo or sustainable cotton sets, as these may help keep you cool.
PRACTICE BREATHING & MEDITATION
Breathing is probably one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for relaxing into a blissful sleep.
A simple exercise is to take a deep breath in through your nose while counting slowly to five, then release it through your mouth, counting back down to one. Repeat this three or four times.
You might prefer guided meditation which will often focus on breathing and releasing tension. There are plenty of free ones available on YouTube, or apps.
EAT EARLIER IN THE EVENING
If you grew up in a household where your evening meal was served promptly at 5.30pm every day, it may be time to take a trip down memory lane.
Eating late can lead to disrupted sleep. Some studies have also suggested those who eat later tend to eat more, which won’t help if you’re struggling with symptoms like weight gain.
GET YOUR SLEEP ROUTINE IN ORDER
Making sure you set yourself up for a quality night’s sleep is vital if you’re struggling with insomnia. If you can, take a warm bath before bed as the big drop in body temperature when you get out will help you drift off. Avoid screens at least a couple of hours before your set bedtime as the blue light they emit tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime.
Natural remedies like valerian can also help make for a more restful night. If you’re suffering from night sweats, we have more tailored advice to help you.
CONSIDER A MELATONIN SUPPLEMENT
If you’ve tried some of the above lifestyle remedies and haven’t had the success you were hoping for, you may want to think about taking a melatonin supplement.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle, and can be taken (depending on your overall health) for between one and four weeks to help with insomnia.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
When someone’s not getting the rest they need, it can wreak havoc on all aspects of their life – from work to relationships. Here’s how you can be a supportive partner, friend or colleague during these trying times.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
Our recommendations include avoiding stimulants like caffeine from early afternoon and heavy meals before bed that’ll make it harder for her body to shut down.
They could also invest in a new mattress or comfier, cooler cotton bedding if their sleep kit needs updating. Their nightly routine might need some attention too.
BE A CONSIDERATE BED PARTNER
If you share a bed with someone who’s having trouble sleeping or night sweats, we get it – it’s annoying for you. But honestly, it’s more annoying for them, because they know you’re laying there not dealing with this nonsense.
Talk about using two separate single duvets or even different beds if disruptions during the night are causing arguments during the day. Whatever you do, make sure it’s right for your relationship, and that you’re in 100% agreement.
ASK THEM WHAT WILL HELP
Ask them exactly what you could do to help. Can you do more round the house if you live together? Could you cancel on a couple of commitments to ease social pressure? Would they like you to run them a bath or even just make them a cup of tea – but only if that’s what they wants.
Regular exercise is a key tool for managing insomnia during the perimenopause and menopause.
Combining something you want to do (spend time together) along with something you need to do (exercise) can be a real game changer.
Partnering up to go for a walk, swim or to the gym is also more likely to help you both stay motivated.
CREATE BREATHING SPACE
No, we’re not saying leave them alone. We mean actually breathe together.
Slow, deep breaths initiate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect and can help you sleep. Taking time together to practice and improve your breathing means you’re more likely to keep up with it.
Yoga and meditation are both great, and there are loads of ‘how to’ videos online and mindfulness apps which mean you can practice from the comfort of your living room.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
Some people find melatonin supplements help them get a better night’s rest.
Why not gently ask if they have tried anything like that?
It can have pretty unpleasant side-effects for some, so remind them to speak to their doctor about taking it first.
If you’re worried about sleep issues and insomnia, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: