Lack of Sleep at Midlife Is Bad for Your Health
Many of the women I talk to tell me that lack of sleep is one of the biggest side effects of menopause, but they accept it as part of life. Now, though, there’s reason to be more wary of midlife insomnia, because lack of good quality sleep can triple the risk for a heart attack.
Yes, that’s right: Not sleeping enough can actually lead to very serious health problems (in addition to irritability, anxiety, fatigue and trouble concentrating).
A recent study by The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), found that over 56% of perimenopausal women are getting less than seven hours a day of sleep a night, and are at high risk of heart attack.
Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change, and insomnia caused by hot flushes can leave many women tossing and turning or waking up drenched in a pool of sweat. On average, most menopause symptoms last around four years from your final period. However, around one in every ten women experience them for up to 12 years; even one sleepless night can be frustrating and exhausting for most, let alone 12 torturous years of night sweats and insomnia. Those are a lot of years of not sleeping, not falling asleep, not sleeping through the night, not waking up feeling rested – and being at risk for serious health problems.
Lying in bed awake night after night can have a great impact on our everyday health, because no one is at their best when they’re exhausted. In the past, women have had to learn to cope with insomnia and adjust their life around it until their hormones settle down, but why should we just sit around and wait for that to happen?
When my patients come to me with issues of sleepless nights, I tell them that they don’t have to put up with it. There are many things we can proactively do. So when menopause is playing havoc with your sleep, try incorporating these lifestyle changes and smart sleep strategies into your daily routine.
Adopt regular sleep patterns
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. It’s harder than it sounds when routines vary from one day to the next, especially on weekends, but our bodies follow a circadian rhythm that relies on consistencies. This consistency should help put a stop to sluggishness and fatigue.
Avoid exercise and caffeine in the evenings
Caffeine is obviously a stimulant, which is why we drink it to wake us up in the morning. It takes around 15 minutes to kick in, but several hours to be eliminated. It blocks sleep-inducing chemicals and increases adrenaline production. With exercise, you may feel physically tired, but mentally you’re awake.
Avoid smartphones at night because the lighting wakes you up
The blue and white light given off from our electronic devices prevents our brains from releasing the hormone melatonin, which tells our bodies that it’s night time. Your mind will stay alert, and that prevents you from falling asleep.
Avoid large amounts of food or fluid late at night
If you drink too much before bed, you might wake up several times to go to the toilet. Also, eating a heavy meal followed by little or no activity means our bodies don’t digest the food as easily, especially since food is best digested in an upright position.
Don’t take naps
Long naps can leave you feeling groggy and interfere with your body clock when it comes to trying to sleep at night.
Take a hot shower or bath before bed
This will adjust your body temperature and when coupled with a cool temperature in your bedroom, the change tells the body to relax and feel sleepy.