Don’t you just love it when you’re looking for health advice (on anything – weight loss, menopause, stress reduction, general health) and the first morsel offered is “be sure to get plenty of refreshing sleep”. Thanks. Helpful (not).
So what causes sleeplessness/insomnia/poor sleep? Pretty much anything by the look of it, but here are some common causes.
- Anxiety, stress, and depression (including anger, worry, grief, and trauma)
- Chronic pain
- Hot flushes
- Extreme weather conditions (heat, humidity, cold)
- Medical conditions (Including but not restricted to asthma, allergies Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, urinary infections, prostate issues, kidney disease, and cancer.
- Sleep Apnoea
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Prescription medications (including antidepressants, stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptives).
- Some cold and flu medications, diuretics, and slimming pills.
- Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
- Circadian rhythm disturbances
- Jet lag
- Shift work
- Sleep disruptions due to caring for others (children, sick, elderly)
Experts say women going through menopause can experience serious disruptions in sleep, and women who are going through menopausal transition are more likely to be sleep-deprived than premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
What should I do?
Now some of these things you can control for, and some you can’t. These suggestions are worth a go:
- Set a regular bedtime and stick to it.
- Get up at the same time every day.
- Increase your exposure to bright light (preferably natural light) during the day.
- Reduce exposure to blue light in the evening (Blue light is emitted by computers, mobiles, and other electronic devices).
- Get the TV out of your bedroom.
- Avoid coffees and cola drinks late in the day (six hours before your bedtime is what’s recommended, but good luck with that).
- Avoid long (and irregular) day time napping.
- Minimise drinking alcohol into the evening.
- Avoid eating (and drinking fluid) close to bedtime. Try not to eat after 8 pm.
- Improve the bedroom environment (temperature around 20 degrees, minimise light sources, use clean sheets, check your pillow, invest in a good mattress, invest in good quality comfortable sheets, keep it tidy and dust-free, and use the bedroom as a bedroom only, not an office, dining room or anything else)
- Take a relaxing bath/shower.
- Try meditation or relaxation techniques
- Exercise regularly, but nor before bed.
Still can’t sleep?
Try Sarah’s method for getting over jet-lag. Can’t sleep? Don’t worry about it. Plan not to. Get yourself ready for a night in front of the TV. Queue up some of your favourite movies and TV shows, get the snacks out, grab a blanket and a pillow and settle on the couch for a relaxing night of TV. You’ll be asleep before you know it. Be sure to wake up at your regular time. It may take a couple of night of this to get the sleep cycle back in tune.
Still no good?
Try Melatonin supplements Melatonin helps reset your body’s circadian rhythms (the thing in your brain that tells you when to sleep). It is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new time zone.
You could also try these natural remedies (recommended by healthline)
- Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it may aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction, but the evidence is limited. Take 250 mg 30–60 minutes before bed
- Glycine: A few studies show that 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality Valerian root: Several studies suggest that valerian can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed
- Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within your body, magnesium can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality
- L-theanine: An amino acid, l-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before bed
- Lavender: A powerful herb with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool
- Passion Flower Tea: Passion flower, also known as Passiflora incarnata or maypop, is a popular herbal remedy for insomnia.
*Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it’s good for you, or that it is going to work for you. After all, death, uranium and poison ivy are all-natural, and I don’t imagine that you want those anytime soon. If you are taking prescribed medications consult with your doctor before adding any natural medicines to your routine – poisoning yourself is a real possibility.