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Menopause and insomnia

Dragging yourself through the day because you were awake during the night? Insomnia, or inability to sleep, is a common complaint during menopause. But before you kick those sheep out of the room, you should know what insomnia is. More importantly you need to know that menopause is not a direct cause of insomnia.

This first in a three-part series defines insomnia; part two examines menopause, sleep disordered breathing and insomnia; part three looks at what role if any menopasue plays in sleeplessness.

Insomnia defined
Everybody has the occasional sleepless night, but insomnia is a little more serious. Usually if you miss a night of sleep, you can recover or ‘catch up’ within the next couple of days.

Insomnia affects people differently but most report feeling too tired the next day to perform most tasks. It feels as though you can never seem to sleep enough to feel rested when you wake up. The worst part is that no matter how tired you are, you cannot get a good night’s sleep.

Insomnia can occur in a few different ways:
*You have trouble falling asleep, lying awake for several minutes or hours after you get into bed.
*You fall asleep but wake up several times during the night, sleeping in fits and starts
*You wake up earlier than you need to and stay awake, watching the clock until it’s time to wake up

Some other signs to watch for include:
*Difficulty waking up and dragging yourself out of bed
*Dragging yourself through your day
*Headaches
*Irritability
*Having trouble concentrating
*Falling asleep or nodding off at all the wrong times, such as early in the evening while watching television, at work, or worst of all, while driving
*If you could take a day to do anything you want, your first choice would be to sleep

How much sleep is enough?
While many sleep experts still talk about a good 8 hours of sleep every night, it is more about how much sleep you need. Some people can sleep as little as 3 or 4 hours a night; others need at least 9 hours or more. Your best indicator is how you feel the next day. If you can wake up and feel rested, you are getting enough rest at night. Insomnia leaves you feeling exhausted and miserable.

Menopause and insomnia
Menopause is not a direct cause of insomnia, even though many women dealing with menopause and perimenopause complain about sleep issues. We’ll look at menopause and insomnia in greater detail in the second part of this series.

Help for insomnia

*Keep a sleep journal to record how much sleep you are getting (or how little) and what things might be keeping you awake; discuss with your doctor to find out what is causing the insomnia and what treatments are available

*Keep your room comfortable and do not take work to bed. Aside from reading, your bed should be for sleep and sex and not much else

*Menopausal women should keep the room at a cooler temperature – keep a fan by the bed and have a glass of water and a cool cloth nearby

*Develop a sleep routine by performing a few rituals to signal to your body that it is time to hit the hay. Try reading a soothing affirmation passage, a skin care routine, brushing and flossing routine, and putting on sleepwear (if you choose)

*Try warm milk or a soothing tea to help relax and cue the body’s sleep pattern

*Avoid alcohol; even if you do fall asleep, you will sleep less deeply and awaken much earlier than you normally would without alcohol

*If you need to eat, keep it light, like a small piece of fruit or yogurt, eating too much before bed means the stomach will be spending the night digesting rather than resting

*Get enough physical exercise during the day or early in the evening. Vigorous exercise too close to bedtime keeps the heart racing too much to relax and fall asleep

*Calming exercise however is good; try yoga, tai chi or a deep breathing technique to help calm the body down

*Quit smoking; nicotine interferes with the body’s ability to sleep

*Use sleeping pills only as a last resort and only after consulting with your doctor; sleeping pills contribute to more sleep pattern disturbances

*Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy or alternatives to help you deal with menopause

Getting a good night’s sleep should be natural. Yet many suffer from not getting enough rest and have difficulty functioning during the day. During menopause, being vigilant about what is causing your symptoms sounds exhausting. But by knowing how to deal with menopause and insomnia, you will have a better chance to get the rest you need - sheep-free.

Menopause, Your Doctor, and You

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Content copyright © 2013 by Tammy Elizabeth Southin. All rights reserved.
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