Women need adequate sleep to think clearly, react quickly, and maintain memories. In fact, the pathways in the brain that help women learn and remember are very active during sleep. So, for keeping those menopause moments to a minimum, women need enough good-quality sleep. Some of the challenges women face throughout midlife include difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking during the night, and waking too early in the morning. These problems are all forms of insomnia and can occur over a period of days, months, or years.
There are many causes of insomnia such as advancing age, depression, anxiety, stress, certain medications, bad sleep habits, and some medical conditions (including sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and restless leg syndrome). Woman also report sleep disruption with menopause-related hot flashes.
Here are eight Sandman-approved lifestyle strategies for treating minor sleep disturbances:
- Avoid heavy meals and large quantities of beverages in the evening or late at night. These can cause indigestion and/or frequent waking due to the need to urinate.
- Avoid naps during the day. Naps can boost brainpower, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can’t manage without, limit naps to less than an hour.
- Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine—not just before bedtime, but during the afternoon and evening hours, too. Although alcohol is initially a sedative, it later becomes a stimulant in the body; so while it may put you to sleep at first, it also can wake you up later.
- Keep bedroom light, noise, and temperature at a comfortable level. Dark, quiet, and cool are conditions that support sleep.
- Get regular exercise. Preferably during the day—at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at consistent times, even on weekends. Relax and wind down before sleep by reading a book, listening to music, or taking a leisurely bath. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Get some sun. Sunlight exposure, at least 30 minutes each day, helps regulate daily sleep patterns.
- Snack. Try a bowl of cereal or peanut butter toast before bedtime. Milk and peanuts contain tryptophan, which helps the body relax.
Women who feel tired or not well rested during the day, despite spending enough time in bed at night, should consult a healthcare provider or sleep specialist. Continuous trouble sleeping may be a sign of a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, that would benefit from specific evaluation and treatment.
Visit The North American Menopause Society for ongoing information and guidance about perimenopause, postmenopause and healthy aging.
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