I’ve written about WHY women in midlife have trouble sleeping (and, unfortunately, just about every woman runs into this once or more in their menopause journey). I talked about HOW the various hormone imbalances that accompany menopause keep you from sleeping. You can take that assessment here.
In this article, I want to give you four basics that can help WHENEVER you are having sleep difficulties, regardless of the cause.
- Intend to sleep. The power of intention can be vastly underestimated. When you go to bed thinking, “This won’t work, I’ll be awake till 2, I’ll be exhausted at work tomorrow. This is awful. I hate this,” well, it’s no wonder you don’t sleep. But if you intend to fall asleep easily, sleep soundly, and fall back asleep if you do awaken, I promise, it will get easier. Maybe not right away, but if you don’t let yourself get discouraged, you’ll find that sleeping gets better.
- Get a nighttime routine of calming down and stick to it! You sleep better in a dark, quiet room. If you’re one of those people who’s become so accustomed to sleeping with the TV or iPod on, you may not believe that. But it’s true! Research shows that your sleep is deeper and more restful. So work to wean yourself off the TV, especially – the flickering of the lights can be especially disturbing. So, turn off the TV, and use a timer if you play calming, quiet music. Try and go to sleep the same time each night, and start calming down about an hour before bedtime. Don’t watch the news if it’s going to make you upset and Scream 3 is better watched on a Saturday afternoon than right before bed. This also applies to exercise. If the only time you seem to have for exercise is right before bedtime and you are having trouble sleeping, consider turning in when you’d normally exercise and then getting up earlier and do your workout.
- Make the bedroom a special place. The more you keep your time in bed for what beds are for, the less your subconscious thinks of the bed as a place to do things other than sleep and sex. Reading and watching TV in bed COULD be keeping you from thinking of your bed as a restful place (for me, reading has ALWAYS been a nighttime ritual, but I’m more careful about WHAT I read). And if you combine your office and your bedroom, or work on a laptop in bed before you go to sleep, you may be tempting your mind to go back over the day’s work problems rather than relaxing. This means, too, that tossing and turning and fretting sleeplessly at night isn’t helping establish that sleep/bed connection. So, if you truly aren’t going to go back to sleep, get up, turn on as few lights as possible and settle down with a cozy hobby or a light book (don’t pick something that’s going to wake you more), a glass of warm milk and take your mind away from sleeplessness. Chances are, you’ll be drowsy before you know it. If night sweats are the reason you are tossing and turning, make sure you keep a fresh nightgown and even a fresh sheet handy. Once the flash is over, if you’re sweaty, you may want to dry off and avoid the sudden cool-down. Bathing your face and neck with a warm washcloth (after you cool down) can help you feel fresher and relax, as well. And you may be able to return to sleep more easily as well. My book, Chill Out!, has sleep tips specifically aimed at dealing with night sweats.
- Give over your worries. For many women, we either worry at bedtime, worry when we wake up in the middle of the night or wake up early to gnaw on what we have to do that day. Try this instead. About an hour before bedtime, write down all the things that are worrying you. Relatives and friends who are ill. Children who are making bad choices. Money and job problems. Marital and friendship issues. Now, give them over to God or your higher power. Honestly, there isn’t anything you can do about these things tonight. If there was, you would have done it, right? Now, make a list of 5 (or more) things you are grateful for. Make THIS the list you concentrate on as you fall asleep. Can’t think of 5 things? How about – tonight, you have a bed to sleep in. You have an Internet connection. You have a friend on your side (Hey, I’m on your side, even if everyone else in your life has deserted you!). There are stars in the heavens and the sun to give warmth to the earth. Surely, you can think of one more! If not, CALL ON ME – I’ll help! If you awaken at night, and start to worry, repeat these steps from the “give them over” part. If you wake up too early, repeat these steps. If you awaken refreshed, but before your alarm clock, get up, and go spend the time doing something luxurious for yourself – a morning yoga routine, or start the coffee and add some cinnamon to it. Read a book by your favorite author or google the poetry of Robert Frost. ENJOY the early morning hour of solitude! But most of all, DON’T start on the daily routine of worry. There”s time enough for that AFTER breakfast.
Sleep is essential to our health, both physical and mental. Without it, our bodies can’t recover from our daily activities and can’t make the hormones that keeps our daily cycles working smoothly. Without it, our minds can”t reorganize our daily experiences and begin to look like the aftermath of a hurricane, with everything displaced and unorganized. Sooner or later, even the power naps won’t help.
But, by beginning to establish a regular pattern of sleep habits, you’ll see yourself improving the quality of your sleep and noticing how much easier that makes your day!
I believe every woman has the right to feel their best during menopause. The fastest way to get there is to know what YOUR next step is. Schedule a FREE consultation with me and discover what you can do now to take control of your Menopause Journey.