It’s 3 a.m. and you’re wondering why that girl you were friends with in middle school stopped talking to you. Or why you can’t stop at one portion of peanut butter like other people. Sleep is important at every age but falling asleep and staying asleep becomes more problematic as we age.
Also, when you wake in the middle of the night, unnecessary worry hijacks your mind. Like many women, during midlife you have a lot on your plate. You are not alone. One-third of adults report having regular bouts of insomnia. Let’s look at ways to get better sleep in midlife.
I have always been someone (ask my siblings) who loves my sleep and have gone to bed on the early side (9pm) to get a head start. Midlife threw me for a loop when I began waking at 3am! I realized it was mainly due to my drink of choice (red wine) and my love of a sugary snack at night to relax me. I had to give both of those up and embrace new habits. I now enjoy decaffeinated tea and a less sugary snack that doesn’t interfere with my sleep.
It wasn’t an overnight fix but with consistency, I now sleep as well as I did when I was younger!
Why Sleep is Poor for Women in Midlife
Sleep is a fundamental, necessary and complex behavior. Unfortunately, Estradiol, a type of female estrogen, decreases in peri-menopause which is linked to poorer sleep quality. Also, night sweats occur for about 56% of peri-menopausal women causing a disruption in sleep. Getting proper sleep for women in midlife is critical to getting through your day. Not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night can cause a host of physical and emotional issues, contributing to anxiety and depression. There is growing evidence that chronic sleep issues may accelerate the aging process and add to the prevalence of chronic diseases.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Prepare before bed: One hour before you plan to be asleep, set up a routine. Stop all screen time and relax with a book or a magazine. Take your relaxation a step further with a scented candle and apply a drop or two of lavender essential oil to your skin to help calm your nervous system.
- Consider no alcohol before bed: Alcohol easily disrupts women’s circadian rhythm. It can help you get to sleep but causes dips in blood sugar during the night preventing a good night’s sleep. It is reported that one in ten individuals use alcohol as a hypnotic agent to self-medicate sleep problems. There are other healthier ways to achieve good sleep listed here.
- Charging phone at night: It’s better to have your phone in another room to charge during the night. Your phone is one of many devices with an LED screen that emits a ‘blue light’. This can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime causing a disruption in sleep.
- Take a relaxing bath: Try a soothing warm bath with 1/4 cup of Epsom salt, 1/4 cup of Himalayan salt and 1/3 cup of baking soda to relax tense muscles.
- Meditate, journal or listen to music: Relaxing before bed by meditating, journaling some of the things that are weighing heavily on your mind or listening to calming music can reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Check out my blog on habit change to help incorporate better choices into your routine.
- Count sheep: If you do wake up during the night, don’t allow worrisome thoughts to keep you awake. Try counting sheep backwards from 100 to distract your mind. This allows you to focus on something that will help get you back to sleep rather than problems that you can’t solve during the night.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Discuss HRT with your physician. If your doctor is someone who doesn’t want to have this discussion, consider changing doctors. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) is a great place to start finding a doctor in your area that is right for you.
You Deserve to Take Care of You
As we age, we have many responsibilities. We are naturally concerned about our own health as well as the people we love. Don’t let worry keep you up at night. Putting your health first should be a priority for you and for those that count on you. Getting a good night’s sleep is the perfect place to start!
Your physician may discuss many lifestyle choices with you but quite often sleep patterns are not addressed. Choose one or all of the suggestions above to get a good night’s sleep to tackle other health concerns that may arise. Reach out to me if you would like more support in this area or just to have a discussion about changing hormones and other lifestyle choices!
I’m a registered nurse for over 24 years with a Masters Degree in Nursing (Education). I am also a Certified Women’s Health Coach specializing in helping women navigate changing hormones in their 30s and beyond after my own difficult experience through menopause. I believe women should truly thrive in midlife and not just survive!