Poor sleep can affect almost every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately sleep disturbances and insomnia is a common issue during peri-menopause. Research shows that around 56% of women report ongoing insomnia in the lead-up to their final menstrual period (peri-menopause). Many women experience hot flushes, night sweats, migraines and mood changes, which can all affect our quality and duration of sleep.
Why is Sleep so Important?
Sleep is important for regulating the central nervous system and cognitive function. Sleep also affects the immune system – for example, those who sleep less than five hours are 4.5 times more likely to have a cold than those who sleep for seven hours per night. When it comes to exercise, sleep is the time where the concentration of growth hormone (which contributes to muscle growth and repair) is at its highest. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can affect strength and power, energy stores, and increase the risk of injury.
Alisha Guyett, (PhD candidate in Flinders University's sleep health division), says insufficient sleep affects memory, mood regulation and judgment, “When sleep-deprived, the part of the brain that ties emotions to memories, the amygdala, doesn’t function properly, which means reactions will be more intense in some situations."
Lifestyle Strategies to Improve Sleep
Dinner containing adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and essentials fats. A lot of cellular repair work happens overnight; not having enough fuel in your tank will result in waking frequently.
All overhead lights off after 6pm. Soft lamps only. Low light stimulates the production of melatonin.
Block-out blinds in the bedroom. A light and noisy bedroom is akin to ‘sleeping with one eye open’ and makes for light, restless sleep
Change your sheets weekly.
Create your own day spa – after dinner, have a warm shower with calming essential oils flicked onto the wall, the steam will release the scent. Take some deep breaths
Cosy pyjamas – soft materials make us feel comfortable and safe, essential feelings for sleep.
Screens off by 8pm.
Create a similar wind-down routine each night, these repetitive actions create a neural pathway in the brain. The recognised cues signal to the brain that it’s bed and sleep time.
Keep your bedroom clean and clutter free.
Herbs & Supplements
In a randomised cross-over trial recently published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, a 3g dose of glycine taken 30 minutes before bed attenuated daytime sleepiness and fatigue induced by acute sleep restriction.
Ashwaganda (Withania) This small plant native to India and North Africa is also known by its botanical name Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha may soothe stress, alleviate anxiety and be particularly helpful for improving insomnia and sleep quality
Jamaican Dogwood - Native to Southern Florida, the West Indies and Texas, the bark of this tree is known for its therapeutic properties. It’s traditionally been used to aid sleep, anxiety, nerve pain, migraine, menstrual cramps and other conditions.
Lavender - Lavender essential oil has been involved in many clinical trials regarding sleep. In one study psychologists at Wesleyan University in Connecticut had 31 men and women sniff lavender essential oil one night – and then distilled water the next. Researchers monitored patients their sleep cycles with brain scans and found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Subjects slept more soundly on the lavender night. The group also reported feeling more energetic the next morning.
Don’t stress if you don’t fall asleep immediately. If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep consider some breathing techniques, stretches or making a cup of chamomile tea to help the process along. Avoid negative judgments about the fact that you are unable to sleep and chat to your health Practitioner about natural supplements which can assist sleep.