Sleepless in Midlife: 7 Tips for Beating Menopausal Insomnia

Discussion in 'Gynaecology and Obstetrics' started by Egyptian Doctor, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. Egyptian Doctor

    Egyptian Doctor Moderator Verified Doctor

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    Keep a regular schedule. Go to bed and wake up the same time each and every day, even on weekends. Why? Your body responds to consistency, and keeping a regular sleep-wake timetable helps to regulate your circadian rhythm (your inner biological clock). Develop a bedtime ritual, too. For instance, each evening before I go to bed, I head to the kitchen and set up the coffee pot and pull out the toaster. Then I slowly walk through the house turning off all the lights. This five-minute routine actually sends a signal to my brain that it's time to wind down and go to bed.

    Make sure your bed is comfortable, the room dark, the room temperature cool. A proper sleeping environment is crucial to a good night's sleep. Old mattress? Try a memory foam topper to smooth out the lumps. If you can't get your room pitch black - optimal for sleeping - try a sleeping mask. (It's like a mini blanket for your eyes!) To insure the proper temperature (somewhere between 55 and 75 degrees - you'll need to experiment to find your perfect climate), open the windows and turn on a ceiling fan.

    Exercise. Experts say that it takes about two months of regular exercise - walking, swimming, bike riding - to regulate your circadian rhythm and improve not only the quality of your sleep but the length of time you'll stay asleep as well. Furthermore, exercising is a great stress reducer. But experts caution against exercising too close to bedtime (no later than three hours before your head hits the pillow) as it may actually stimulate your mind and raise your body temperature. I found that a brisk, one-hour walk three mornings a week works wonders for me.

    Just say no to caffeine, excessive alcohol, naps, TV and computer. I can't touch anything with caffeine after 1 p.m. or it will interfere with my falling asleep. If you're caffeine sensitive, too, try cutting down or cutting it out altogether to see if it helps. Be careful of your alcohol consumption as well. Sure a half-glass of wine makes you feel drowsy but did you know that it's actually a stimulant and if you drink too much it may inhibit serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, and interfere with your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep? And forget about taking a nap! Make it a rule never to take a snooze during the day, no matter how short. Finally, turn off all electronics, even the TV, at least an hour before you plan on heading to bed as both stimulate your brain making it harder to shut down for the night.

    Be mindful of how much you eat before bed. Although consuming a small, carbohydrate-rich snack like crackers and cheese is high in serotonin, don't overindulge as a large meal shortly before bed can actually keep you awake. Instead, try taking your calcium supplement before bed as the mineral is also known to stimulate serotonin.

    Regulate your body temperature. Although your body temperature needs to drop in order to fall asleep, cold feet and hands may actually inhibit your ability to nod off. My solution? When the weather is cool, I plug in a heating blanket for five minutes to warm my sheets before hopping into bed. (To avoid a fire hazard, I never sleep with the blanket plugged in.) I often wear socks to bed too!

    Try meditation. I'm not talking about sitting crossed legged on the floor. (Although if that works for you, go for it!) Instead, when I get into bed and can't sleep, I slowly recite the alphabet in my mind and visualize writing each letter on a blackboard. Yes, it's boring but that's the point! I usually fall asleep before I get to z-z-z-z-z.

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