Updated: Jun 30
Are you fed up with not getting a good night’s sleep?
It’s estimated that 40%* of the population struggle to sleep well, for women going through the menopause this leaps to around 63%.
We suffer from feelings of exhaustion and complete lethargy and eventually, it has a negative impact on our wellbeing, it is a time for healing after all.
The question is how can sleep disturbance be rectified?
A hot milk and warm bath are recommendations I think we've all heard but let's look a little deeper.
Is there a good work/life balance?
Do you find it hard to switch off and relax?
Do you have different patterns over the weekend in comparison to your working week?
What was your cycle like when you were sleeping well, has anything changed? Are you going to bed later or staying in bed longer?
I know there are a lot of questions but by drilling down into many aspects of life its possible to find something that will help, we automatically focus on things that can be done on an evening but by looking at lifestyles, in general, there are small changes that can be made which potentially could make a big difference.
Is stress and tension a factor?
Are you on the go all the time?
Are you easily distracted by Social Media?
Is your mind working overtime? Do you struggle to focus on a particular task for any length of time without your mind wandering?
What's your diet like?
Allow time throughout the day to check your Facebook, Instagram, emails, etc. but set a time limit, when the time is up, step away! Make it a daily pattern, stick to the routine and you’ll find your mind becomes calmer and less stimulated, helping you to concentrate.
Do you have a working lunch? Try to step outside in the fresh air, have a walk, enjoy some natural light. Even 10-20 minutes may help you feel more relaxed and balanced.
Do you worry too much?
This can seriously impact sleep once the gremlins start creating havoc.
Make a list of the things that are causing worry & using a ratio of 1 -10, (1 being low, 10 being high), prioritise how big a worry these things are. Often when we think about them rationally we realise that it’s not such a big worry, I love the quote ‘If it won't matter in 5 years don't spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it"…
How true is that? Conserve your energy if you can!
If the worry is nearer a 10 than a 1 what can you do to be proactive? Taking control of a situation allows you to gain complete control which in turn can leave a more positive feeling and this may lead to a more relaxed sleep.
At this point, I'm going to share my personal experience with you...I've found that as I’m aging and when I reached the perimenopausal stage of life there were things I needed to do to reduce the nightly hot flushes and insomnia as it was horrendous.
Our hormones are so finely tuned it doesn't take much for life to be dramatically upended! The reduction of oestrogen can affect our sleep, cause hot flushes and anxiety to build too. Lower levels of progesterone mean our brains are more active when the levels are as they should be, progesterone induces sleep.
I would reach for the sugary foodstuff & carbs & it became a viscious circle. Our diet is really important during the menopause too, this really is a time to make significant, positive lifestyle changes! So, I stopped having sugar, alcohol and caffeine as a trial to see if it helped, it made an incredibly positive change and a relatively quick one too, Not every night is great, my energy levels are quite flat at times but I eat fruit and nuts during the day, one coffee (in the morning...Oh I do love that coffee) and very little alcohol, my sleep is far better.
It may seem a bit dull and boring but keeping the same bedtime creates a routine that your body slowly begins to adapt to.
Decide on what time you need to be up in the morning, how many hours sleep you need, or would like and work back, making that time bedtime and stick to it regardless of whether it's Monday, Friday or the weekend.
Setting the scene for bedtime needs to be done at least an hour beforehand.
Turn bright lights off and turn on softer lighting or light candles.
We have an inbuilt mechanism that prepares us for sleep, melatonin, a natural hormone is released as it reacts to light so when it becomes darker your brain begins to secrete more melatonin, This applies to screen light too, whether that’s the television, iPad or laptop, even your phone, so no matter how tempting it is to have those in front of you, put them aside at some point during your evening.
Create the perfect space for sleep, leave the tech in another room, it’s so tempting to pick it up during those early wakeful hours which just prolongs going back off to sleep, you start scrolling, commenting and even shopping!! Not good at all.
Remove any clutter, having a clear space improves the stress levels. If the bedroom is busy your mind is busy too.
Create some luxury, think hotel room, plumped pillows, soft bedside lighting, aromatherapy candles or diffusers both add yet another dimension as aromatherapy targets our strongest sense, the smell. (See my website shop link below for my soothing Essential Oil Sleep Gift Box.)
Have a gratitude journal. Going off to sleep with positive thoughts in your mind helps to lift your emotional state.
Try not to stress, It’s quite natural to wake at some point during the night!
“The idea of eight continuous hours of sleep is what people think they should be aiming for, but eight hours ‘consolidated sleep’ isn’t based on biological needs. Before the Industrial Revolution, people did not sleep continuously, but in two phases. So, if you tend to wake in the middle of the night and stay awake for a bit, you might find it comforting to know that’s how your ancestors slept.” Dr Diletta De Cristofaro
So, what to do if you wake during the night, still with a busy mind
Keep a notebook by your bed, when you have thoughts racing, writing them down can help.
Bed is a perfect place to be even if sleep does evade you for a while. You are cosy and warm, to relax is just as important as your body is healing.
And finally here's a study looking at the effects of reflexology on fatigue, sleep and pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis
If you'd like to visit for reflexology and see if it helps you please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment.
If insomnia continues for a length of time it may be worth keeping a sleep diary which would be beneficial if/when you seek help from your GP.