How to Sleep With Your Menopause

Your hormonal changes can monkey with your sleep at a time in your life when you need it more than ever. This is one of the most frustrating--and common--aspects of perimenopause and menopause. Know that you are not alone in your suffering.

But know as well that there are solutions. They’re different for everyone, so you may have to experiment before you find the solution that works best for you.

The following are strategies that have been known to help women sleep better. Consider it a menu to choose from. Apply the strategies you choose consistently for a week or so and track how well they work.

 

During the Day

  • Decide on a regular bedtime and waking time. Plan the rest of your day around those times so you can make sure you’re not scrambling into bedtime.
  • Suspend the weekend late nights and sleep-ins; try going to bed and waking at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Do regular light to moderate exercise at least 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid napping--or at least try shortening your naps to under 15 minutes.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee or nicotine, especially after noon.
  • Have some complex carbs with dinner.
  • Limit alcohol and sugar, especially near bedtime.
  • Try light therapy in the morning: sit in front of a 10,000 lux lamp or light box placed above you, but tilted down towards your face, 20-30 minutes.

Create a Sleeping Sanctuary

  • Reevaluate your mattress and bedding for maximum comfort. Is it time for an upgrade?
  • Make your bedroom a calming, clutter-free, fresh-smelling space with soft, bedside lighting.
  • Install light-blocking drapes or shades.
  • Cool down your bedroom to 65-72 degrees F if you have air conditioning.
  • Wear loose, cotton nightclothes.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex--no electronics, planning, working, exercising.

Create Your Bedtime Rituals

  • Set your alarm for an hour before bedtime. This is when your bedtime rituals begin and blue light/electronics/TV time ends.
  • Take a warm bath or shower. Use epsom salts and lavender essential oil.
  • Spritz your pillow with lavender water or run a cool mist essential oil diffuser next to your bed.
  • Read a book or magazine--the kinds printed on paper, not electronic.
  • Try a protein snack before bed if you wake with night sweats (cottage cheese, turkey slices, almonds).
  • Do some yoga nidra or a relaxing meditation (and yes, this may be an exception to the no-electronics strategy).
  • Brain dump before bed. Journal everything on your mind, especially stressful thoughts, and then put it away for the night.
  • If you’re not sleepy enough, read in bed until you are.
  • But still wake at the same time every day and allow yourself to adjust over time.

What to do if you wake in the middle of the night

  • Get out of bed and read a paper book or magazine until you feel sleepy again.
  • Do NOT further stimulate your brain with tasks like planning and problem solving. Protect this nighttime space as a time for rest, whether you’re sleeping or not.
  • If you find your mind ruminating, gently remind it that now is a time for rest, and with sleep you’ll be better equipped to deal with those issues tomorrow.
  • Frustrated? Worried? Kind of pissed? Of course you are. Waking before you’ve had enough sleep sucks. Write down how you feel. Now crumple up that paper and throw it away. Take some deep, cleansing breaths and turn your mind now to your happy place, whatever that is. Just be there, even if it doesn’t lead to sleepiness. It’s still a better state of mind than insomnia fury.

Sleeping Aids

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still struggling, sometimes a natural sleeping aid will help. Use sparingly, for example only in times of extra stress, as they can lose their effectiveness over time. Please talk with your doctor before trying any of these!

  • Vitamin E 800 mg

  • Babuna (from the flower of the manzanilla plant) 15 drops 30 minutes before bedtime

  • Amantilla (from the valerian plant) 15 drops at bedtime

  • Valerian 150-300 mg mg in capsule form

  • Melatonin 0.5-3.0 mg and hour before bedtime

  • 5-HTP 100 mg three times per day

  • Natural progesterone, ¼ quarter tsp (20 mg) 2% pharmaceutical-grade USP micronized; ask your doctor for an over-the-counter recommendation

  • Gaba (seriously, talk with your doctor, first)

  • Magnesium, preferably chelated

  • CBD 40-160 mg taken right before bed, though it can cause wakefulness instead for some women