Being a middle-age woman can really mess with your life 24/7. Lately, I’ve been waking up around 2 a.m. and have had difficulty going back to sleep. Sometimes it’s due to night sweats, although most times it’s because I have too much on my mind and I can’t seem to find the "off" switch for my brain. I’ve been tossing and turning for up to 1-1/2 hours before I can get back to sleep.
This restlessness is especially scary when you learn that a new study has found that less than six hours of sleep at night on a regular basis may lead to premature death. A research team led by Dr. Francesco Cappuccio of the University of Warwick reviewed 16 studies that involved more than 1.3 million participants around the globe who were followed for up to 25 years. Cappuccio’s team discovered that sleeping less than six hours a night was associated with a greater risk of death in comparison with those participants who slept 6-8 hours per night. The researchers believe that societal pressures to work longer hours and more often contribute to the lack of sleep.
The added pressure provided by this research to get enough sleep definitely can keep you awake at night. And as a woman entering menopause, the challenges of getting to sleep can be daunting. HealthCentral.com’s sleep site states, "Insomnia can be a major problem in the first phases of menopause, when hormones are fluctuating intensely. Insomnia during this period may be due to different factors that occur. In some women, hot flashes, sweating, and a sense of anxiety can awaken women suddenly and frequently at night. Insomnia may also be caused by psychologic distress provoked by this life passage. In many cases, insomnia is temporary. However, a 2006 study found that hot flashes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women are strongly associated with chronic insomnia (sleep problems lasting more than 1 month). Treating hot flashes may help resolve chronic insomnia."
So how can you capture a good night’s rest as you enter perimenopause or menopause? Night sweats can be a key barrier to sleep for many middle-age women. Determining and then avoiding what causes these bodily reactions can prove helpful. In my case, beer tends to be the trigger, while for others, it might be spicy foods. Then there are things you can add to your diet. Drinking plenty of cold water can be helpful. Black cohosh has squelched some women’s hot flashes (although you shouldn’t take black cohosh if you have liver problems). Your doctor may also be able to prescribe medications that may be of help. Lifestyle choices also can help, such as wearing pajamas that "wick" sweat away and sleeping with cotton sheets and a fan have worked for some.
If night sweats aren’t the cause of your insomnia, here are some other suggestions that might be of help:
- Wake up at the same time each day. And go to sleep at the same time each evening.
- Exercise early in the day.
- Only drink caffeinated beverages early in the day.
- Finish eating several hours before going to sleep.
- Engage in relaxing activities for about an hour prior to going to bed.
- Be careful about drinking alcohol at night. Although it may relax you, it also may wake you up in the middle of the night.
Getting enough nightly zzz’s is important to both your mental outlook and also your long-term health. Be sure to get into a good daily routine and take appropriating measures so you can easily fall asleep and stay asleep each night.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.