One symptom of the perimenopause that you generally don’t hear about is disrupted sleep and you can find yourself suffering from insomnia. If you have never had a problem sleeping before it can be incredibly stressful and affect so many areas of your life. You are already worried about ageing and looking older and the last thing you want is to start looking tired with bags under your eyes.
Lack of sleep affects you in so many ways – your skin looks pallid and tired, you get bags under your eyes, you feel grumpy, have no energy and might have difficulty concentrating (which is frustrating if you already have perimenopause-induced brain fog). To put in bluntly, you look shite.
I had never experienced problems sleeping. Not ever. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light and would generally stay asleep all night. I don’t think a thunder storm or an earthquake would have woken me. So when I started having difficulty sleeping half way through my forties, it came as a bit of a surprise and I didn’t cope with it well. At first I thought it was because I was moving house and kept waking up thinking of all the things that I still needed to do. But then when I had actually moved house, my sleep didn’t get back to normal. It wasn’t the actual going to sleep that was the problem, it was staying asleep. I would wake up anywhere from 3 am and toss and turn until, usually, about half an hour before my alarm went off. It can turn into a vicious circle too as the anxiety of knowing that you haven’t had a good night’s sleep for a while can actually keep you awake.
I have lost count of the magazine articles I have read relating to beauty or fitness or weight loss and read that you should get a good night’s sleep to boost whatever the article is about. I just want to scream that I would love a good night’s sleep! If only it were that simple. So how can you go about trying to improve your sleep?
- Take regular exercise in the form of something aerobic as well as a bit of yoga to calm your mind. You don’t necessarily have to go and burn these calories at the gym – a fast-paced dog walk will do and there are no end of apps to get you into yoga.
- Change your eating habits. Cut out sugar (all sugar if you can but refined sugar at the very least) and try to ditch caffeine – which is also linked to triggering hot flushes in some women. If you absolutely can’t survive without caffeine, make it early in the morning.
- As impossible as this may sound to some people, ditch the alcohol as well. If that is just not going to happen, don’t drink any alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom cool. I would even go so far as to say to keep it cold. It makes a difference. Trust me.
- If you suffer from hot flushes or night sweats, they will be waking you up throughout the night. If you are not on HRT then try Ginseng, Red Clover, Sage leaf or Black Cohosh as alternative remedies. Everyone is different, so a remedy that works wonders for one person will have no effect on another. I personally swear by Black Cohosh.
- Stick to a schedule – go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day, even if you are feeling exhausted and just want another 30 minutes. This is hard to do but it will make a difference.
- Take a prebiotic. These are different to probiotics and will actually feed your gut bacteria and stimulate their growth. Beware, however, as whilst they are feeding and energising the gut bacteria, they might make your innards sound like Vesuvius and cause a bit of wind.
- And very simply, try not to drink too much before bedtime as your bladder muscles weaken with age and you will probably wake up in the middle of the night desperate to go to the loo. Then, of course, you won’t be able to go back to sleep.