If you are nearing or going through menopause and you can't sleep, you're not alone. It's a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological changes and all that can impact our sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, on average, 12% of women actually experience sleep complaints and, as we get older, between our forties and fifties, that number increases dramatically to up to 40%.
So, you're not alone and they worsen as we go through menopause, or peri to post menopause really. The main culprit? It's the hormone estrogen.
Estrogen helps keep our bodies temperature low at night and that's more conducive to restful sleep. Estrogen also has an antidepressant effect on our mind, so, with less estrogen, the estrogen that is dropping, you may experience higher body temperatures, lower quality sleep and poor mood overall.
Also, our sleep wake cycles are changing as we get older and lose consistency. We begin to feel tired earlier and we wake up earlier in the morning, so we are just getting less sleep overall.
Sometimes it's just that life is inherently stressful. We have busy jobs, families to look after and maybe aging parents to look after, so these stressors can keep us up at night, as well.
What are the most common sleep problems that women experience? Among them are hot flashes, insomnia, snoring and restless legs.
Why is sleep important for losing weight?
If we have poor sleep to begin with, for any of these reasons we just discussed, we have less energy throughout the day. To keep our tank full, to keep delivering, to keep showing up at work and doing everything that we're supposed to be doing, we tend to eat more high calorie foods.
Everyone who is really tired, knows it. One more coffee or one more cookie. Our bodies just crave energy. That fast energy is often in sugary foods that leads to weight gain and that weight gain can actually lead to poor sleep.
Maintaining a healthy weight and diet is really important, so it's a chicken and egg problem here, really. The higher the body weight, the more problems we may get with obstructive sleep apnea. So as you work on maintaining a healthy weight, your sleep is likely to improve as well - and vice versa.
Tips to improve your sleep
- Avoid large meals in general, but also large meals, spicy and acidic foods before bedtime, as they may trigger hot flashes.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the afternoons and early evenings. These substances can disrupt sleep and lower your sleep quality.
- Time your liquids. While drinking lots of water is so important on your health and weight loss journey, it is recommended to taper it off towards the end of the day. Use the restroom before going to bed to avoid waking in the middle of the night and try to stop drinking liquids at least an hour before bedtime, if not more.
- Try to reduce stress as much as possible. I know that's easier said than done, but anxious and stressful thoughts can keep us up all night, especially between two and four, so do whatever calms you down in the evening. That can be self-care, like regular massages, exercise and yoga, but also meditation breathing or maybe speaking to a counselor or speaking to a coach.
- A calming bedtime routine can really improve your sleep and lower your cortisol, so take a bath, listen to music, read and try to avoid electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, if not more. Try some relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.
- As you get up in the middle of the night, maybe from a hot flash or night sweats, develop a routine for falling back asleep. Try to stay in bed with the lights off and avoid doing anything that will wake you up even further, like watching TV or looking at your phone. Try to keep a change of clothes on your nightstand or a glass of cool water to drink.
- Keep your bedroom temperature comfortably cool. Lower your bedroom thermostat to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, keep the air conditioning on or a fan and also dress in lightweight pajamas to stay cool at night, or maybe just sleep in underwear. Maybe your bedding needs to be changed for cooler fabrics, like cotton.
These tips and tricks should hopefully help you improve your sleep. Think of the mantra: Progress, not perfection. It's not going to change in one night. Do your best, and that will be a great start.