If you’re going through menopause, then you already know first hand the problems that come with it. Hot flashes and mood swings are one thing, but did anyone warn you about those sleepless nights? Insomnia, or not being able to sleep, is a big issue that comes with menopause. We just don’t talk about it as much! We’re finally giving it the attention it’s due. As a follow up to our recent piece on insomnia in menopause, we’re back with 10 sleep hacks for good sleep hygiene in menopause. We’ll get you from counting sheep to catching your zzz’s in a jiffy.
1. Cut The Caffeine, Alcohol, & Nicotine
There are quite a few things that can keep you awake, including caffeine. Limiting coffee and soft drinks can help a lot as can cutting out wine, nicotine, and those yummy Cafe Mochas from Starbucks. We know, we know. We just told you to cut out some things that are seriously habit inducing, probably stuff you’ve been trying to cut back on for years, but limiting these things or cutting them off completely could mean a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid caffeine after 2pm – or after noon if you’re sensitive to it.
2. Reduce Screen Time
Now that we’re basically living in the future, almost our whole lives are on our phones. We’re often checking social media at all hours of the day, and who can really blame us? Unfortunately it turns out that light from electronic devices manages to keep us awake long after we put the phone down. There are two options here. One, the most obvious one, is to go screen free at least two hours before bedtime. It may sound difficult but it helps a lot when you’re trying to get to sleep. Second and slightly less effective is to download apps onto your device that can change the lighting, so you won’t be staring at that horrid blue light all the time that keeps us awake.
3. The Bed Is For Sleep
Treating your bed and bedroom as only a place for sleep can make an actual psychological impact. This tells your brain that it’s time to rest as soon as you enter the room. No reading books in bed, no checking your phone all the time. Just sleeping. And, well, maybe some sex, too. But generally, just sleeping! You get the idea.
4. Change the Temperature
Did you know that the temperature of your bedroom could affect how well you sleep in it? Turns out that we sleep better in cooler environments. Not warm and certainly not cold but just nice and cool. So invest in some cooler bedding materials and make sure the room stays cool throughout the day, even if that means getting new window screens.
5. Sleep in Darkness
This might sound a little obvious but can sometimes be easier said than done. Light might filter in from a window because of street lamps or a full moon. Or maybe light’s trickling in from the hall or room next door. Whatever the reason and situation, if your room can stand to get a little darker, then that might help you get some sleep. And if you want to go double dark, invest in a sleep mask.
6. Get Some Exercise
Doing some physical exercise during the day will not only make you feel better but help you rest easier, too. If nothing else, it will tire you out. However, exercise helps with all sorts of health related things from brain function to heart health. So you’ll reap the rewards beyond just your bedroom.
7. Eat Dinner Earlier
A lot of people eat dinner (or even snacks) pretty late at night or right before bed. This tells your body that it’s closer to the middle of the day because it takes a lot of energy to digest stuff. Our cavemen ancestors couldn’t eat after it got dark. Food late at night gets all of the digestive processes moving in your body and keeps you awake at night, whether you realize that’s what’s happening or not. Having your final meal of the day a few hours before bed can help your body relax when bedtime rolls around.
8. Meditate Your Way Into Sleep
Even if you’ve never done meditation before, this one’s really easy and can be done even if you don’t know anything about meditation. Body scan meditation is about focusing on every part of your body piece by piece while staying completely still. You start at one point, a finger or something, and just move on from there until you have the whole body covered. Then you work your way back and start all over again. This clears the mind and allows you to relax every muscle you didn’t even know was tensed. This technique works great to relax you into sleep.
There’s a hormone in your body that actually controls your sleep patterns and it’s called melatonin. Melatonin more or less regulates the circadian rhythm in your body which lets you know when it’s time to sleep. Luckily, this hormone is available in supplement form! Ask your doctor if you’re good to take this medicine before jumping right in.
10. Avoid Liquids Before Bed
Are you waking up to run to the bathroom multiple times a night? Try to get your fill of water and other liquids earlier in the day, and don’t drink much starting a few hours before bedtime. Or, if it’s nighttime bladder leaks that have you lying awake, invest in absorbent pads or underwear so you don’t have to worry about it. (Psss…Lily Bird can help with that)
Still Can’t Sleep?
If you’re still having problems getting to sleep after about 20 minutes or so, it’s okay to get up and move around so long as you stay in low light. Do something relaxing that’ll take your mind off of everything. Things like adult coloring books can really help out in this case. Regardless, if you can’t find something that can help and the melatonin supplement isn’t doing the job, consult with your doctor to see what else you can do for a good night’s sleep.
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By Jessica Thomas, MPH