How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Is it a restful, uninterrupted sleep or do you keep waking up in between hours? How do you feel in the morning when you wake up – tired or rejuvenated?
Adequate sleep is as important as regular exercise and healthy nutrition. It is a basic human need to maintain optimum health and body functions. However, sleep problems are common in menopause women. In fact, sixty-one percent (61%) of perimenopausal and menopausal women suffer from sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s latest data.
Hormonal imbalance and upsetting menopause symptoms are the primary causes of your menopausal sleep problems. Be reminded as well that sleep problems don’t just cost you several sleepless nights. It also increases your risk for many debilitating diseases and health problems such as cardiovascular disease (i.e. stroke, heart attack), diabetes, anxiety, depression, obesity, daylight fatigue and even higher risk of getting involved in a road accident!
Hormonal imbalance and upsetting menopause symptoms are the primary causes of your menopausal sleep problems.
Indeed, serious health issues may arise due to sleep deprivation, no matter what the cause is, whether secondary to menopause or there are other underlying conditions that can keep you awake at night. To help you solve your sleep problems, here are eight effective tips for you:
8 Effective Tips that Help Solve Your Menopausal Sleep Problems
Your low estrogen level is causing most of the upsetting menopause symptoms that keep you up at night. Hence, most healthcare practitioners focus their intervention to hormone therapy. Increasing the level of your estrogen could help relieve your menopause symptoms; thus helping you to get a good night sleep. Menopause symptoms that were caused by an estrogen decrease in menopausal women include hot flashes, night sweats, mood disorders, bloating, abdominal cramps, headaches, skin itchiness, muscle tension, joint pain and urinary incontinence.
You may want to consider hormone therapy for your low estrogen levels. Just consult your healthcare practitioner if your current health status has no contraindications.
The very FIRST step that you should take is to boost your estrogen level naturally through your diet.
However, the very FIRST step that you should take is to boost your estrogen level naturally through your diet. Sesame seeds and flax seeds contain plant-based type of estrogen called isoflavones, which provide natural relief to women suffering from menopause symptoms. There are fruits, vegetables, herbs and other foods that have an estrogenic effect some of the foods are alfalfa sprouts, beets, black cohosh, carrots, garlic, garbanzo beans, ginseng, and olive oil. Having these foods in your daily diet would gradually but surely help in keeping your estrogen level in balance.
Remember, hormonal imbalance, particularly low estrogen level is the root cause of the menopause symptoms that results in sleep problems. Addressing this hormonal issue is a long-term solution, but balancing your hormones naturally does not happen in one blink of an eye.
Sleep Problems Tip #2: Don’t let hot flashes rob your good night sleep
Hot flashes affect seventy-five percent (75%) of menopausal women. It would take 1-2 years after your last menstruation when you will no longer have this troubling symptom. However, some women have mild hot flashes for more than two years. If this symptom causes your sleep problems for long period, then you really are in big trouble!
It is difficult to keep yourself healthy when you are constantly sleep deprived. So, do not ignore your hot flashes.
Practice the following hot flash buster habits to ease your sleep problems:
- Avoid excessive intake of food and drinks that trigger or worsen hot flashes such as spicy foods, caffeinated food and drinks (i.e. chocolate, coffee, some tea, energy drinks, soda), and alcoholic beverages.
- Stop smoking or avoid exposure to cigarette smoke if you are not a smoker as nicotine can trigger hot flashes. Smoking is also a major factor associated with various hormonal imbalance issues.
- Keep your bedroom cool. Turn your air conditioner on a few minutes before going to bed or at least use an electric fan while sleeping.
- Have a stand by ice pack or ice water in a thermos on your bedside table. Sip ice water when your hot flash starts or apply an ice pack on the affected area, mainly on your upper body and face.
- Wear sleeping clothes that are made of cotton material and as much as possible use cotton bed linens.
Sleep Problems Tip #3: Keep your gut healthy
Menopausal women often have abdominal cramps and bloating secondary to poor food transit that is caused by low estrogen level. Aside from correcting your hormonal imbalance, it may help to keep your gut healthy and alleviate your digestive symptoms that are disrupting your sleep.
Eat small frequent meals to make sure that your digestive system doesn’t get overwhelmed. It is easier to digest a small meals rather than large meals, and this avoids excessive production of stomach acid that can worsen bloating. Instead of having three large meals, have three smaller meals and two snacks (one1 snack between meals).
To avoid acid reflux that can worsen your gut issues, avoid eating within two hours before sleeping as lying down on a full stomach produces the backflow of your stomach acids to your esophagus. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic foods/drinks because they can irritate your digestive system. Gassy foods like apples, beans, broccoli, cabbage, corn, onions, pears and potatoes are red flags too.
Another way to promote the release of excess abdominal gas is through exercise. Certain yoga poses are great for this.
Sleep Problems Tip #4: Avoid headache triggers
Headaches can become frequent during menopause due to a low estrogen level. Ironically, headaches may disrupt your sleep but they can also result from lack of sleep.
One of the triggers of a headache is dehydration. Thus, drink plenty of water during the daytime to stay hydrated. However, make sure to decrease your intake of water before bedtime to decrease the chance of being awakened during the night to urinate.
Having a warm bath before going to bed will also be helpful. This will keep you relaxed and relieve you from stress. Note that stress is one of the primary triggers of headache.
Moreover, make sure that you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Often, a low sugar level contributes to chronic headaches. As suggested earlier, have small frequent meals. Aside from keeping your gut from getting overwhelmed, small frequent meals ensure that you have a sustainable source of energy for your brain and entire body. Your brain cells use double the amount of sugar that other body cells can consume. If your sugar runs low, your brain will be demanding it, which is probably contributing to your headache episodes.
However, it is better to eat more protein, fiber and whole grains. These foods are digested slower compared to carbohydrates, which means you have a more sustainable source of energy throughout the day. These foods are also more bulky, which keeps you feeling full longer.
Other headache triggers that you must avoid are food and drinks that contain nitrites such as processed meats, food products that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). Tyramine in nuts, fermented meats, soy and cheese can trigger headaches too. Watch out for aspartame too. Most artificially sweetened foods including soda and powdered juice have aspartame.
When a headache starts, apply an icepack to your temples. Always act promptly. If you have a standby over-the-counter medication for headache or a prescribed pain reliever from your doctor, take it immediately when the pain starts because pain reliever is more effective when the pain is just beginning.
Sleep Problems Tip #5: Lessen your trips to the toilet
Feeling the urge to urinate frequently and incontinence at night causes sleep problems too. This happens because menopausal women often have a weakened urinary bladder.
Limit your fluid intake two hours before bedtime to avoid frequent urination if this is the primary cause of your sleep problems. Avoid food and drinks that increases the amount of urine and triggers urge to urinate such as alcohol, caffeinated food and drinks (coffee, energy drinks, colas, tea, chocolate), citrus fruits and juices, pineapple, tomatoes, cranberries, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, sweeteners, raw onions, banana, grapes, apples, sour cream, and prunes.
Another efficient way menopausal women can help with urgency and frequency of urination is by doing Kegel or pelvic floor exercises. This exercise helps in strengthening your pelvic floor muscles that control your urine flow.
Sleep Problems Tip #6: Schedule your sleeping hour
Establishing a sleep routine that will help reset your body clock if you have persistent sleep problems. For instance, if you prefer to sleep at 9PM, as this is the time when you likely feel sleepy; then make it a habit to go to bed at this hour every night. Likewise, set a specific time to wake up in the morning. Once your body adapts to your routine, it won’t be difficult to get at least eight hours of sleep and even more.
However, the circadian rhythm (body clock) differs from person-to-person. Some people are night owls while others are morning larks. That’s why some health experts say that scheduling your sleeping hour depends on when you feel the sleepiest as long as you get at least 8 hours of sleep.
On the other hand, other researchers pointed out that sleeping before midnight, particularly between 8PM- 12AM, is highly recommended rather than sleeping later than these hours. Sleeping before midnight can give you a deeper and restorative sleep. While sleeping late will give you a lighter sleep, which may make you feel tired upon waking and t can decrease your body and mind performance as well.
Sleep Problems Tip #7: Exercise regularly
Aerobic exercise and walking are helpful forms of exercise that promote better sleep at night. You may choose another form of exercise according to your preference as long as the intensity is just mild to moderate.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need to schedule your exercise in the late afternoon if you intend to use it in promoting good sleep at night. Never exercise within three hours before bedtime, as it can worsen your sleep problems. Your body needs to cool down because low body temperature induces the sleep mechanism. Exercising increases your body temperature and it could take six hours before your body temperature decreases to a level conducive for sleeping.
Moreover, regular exercise also helps you alleviate muscle tension and joint pains.
Sleep Problems Tip #8: Set a relaxing bedtime routine
Relaxing before bedtime helps send a signal to the brain that it’s time to rest and recharge through sleeping. That is why it is important to have a relaxing bedtime routine. It will help you fall asleep easily and so you have a deep sleep. Here’s what you can do:
- Keep your bed exclusive for sleeping and intimate activities with your partner. This means you should not take your work and electronic gadgets or appliances that will keep you awake in your bedroom (i.e. TV, computer, etc.).
- Take a warm bath.
- Reduce or eliminate loud noise. However, there are noises that can’t be controlled such as loud neighbors, barking dogs, and the like. You may use an earplug or you can play soft music to mask such noise.
- Make your bed comfortable. Just your pillows and blanket should be on the bed.
- Keep the room dark during sleeping hours. Use a low wattage bulb if you can’t sleep with lights off.
- Keep your room cool and properly ventilated.
- Write a to-do list, so you don’t keep thinking about your activities for the next day.
- Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing. Breath slowly and deeply until you fall asleep.
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