As if us ladies didn’t have enough problems that are associated with our hormones, but now new research is suggesting that when the estrogen and progesterone in our body fluctuates, such as during or periods and the menopause, this can affect how well we sleep. Dr. Donna Arand, who is the clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says: “When progesterone is low, you might experience insomnia because progesterone is also used as a precursor to chemicals that induce sleep, like serotonin,” she adds, “That just means there are fewer materials to generate the sleep hormone. You may find you have more difficulty falling asleep just before and during your period, when progesterone is at its lowest levels, and that you can fall asleep much more easily just after, when it is at its highest.” But just as we are all individuals and no one woman’s cycle is the same, Dr, Arand says that these levels may not impact every woman in the same way — some women don’t see any issues related to their cycles. It’s just the luck (or misfortune) of the draw.
But even if you find that your body is working against you, there are still things we can do to perfect the art of having a restful nights sleep. So pour yourself a glass of warm milk, cuddle up under a cosy duvet, and read on, just don’t drop off before the end of the article!
Easier said than done we know and a bit of a catch-22 situation if you are lying in bed, knowing that you need to sleep but cannot, but Dr. Arand says you need to focus on ways to manage it instead. “Multiple studies have shown behavioral approaches to reducing insomnia are extremely effective,” she says. For instance, try doing this simple exercise, before you head to bed, take a few minutes to sit down and put to paper all of the things that you need to do tomorrow, then write a brief plan of action on how you are going to complete each task the next day. That way, when you start fretting over everything you have to do, you can calm yourself down with the reassuring thought that you are a woman with a plan. If this doesn’t work, Dr. Arand is a big fan of deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation (especially good for those who physically tense up when they are stressed), and guided imagery. “If you get in bed and can’t turn off your mind, focus on an image or activity that you find really peaceful. Fill your mind with relaxing thoughts, which will block out the other things that are keeping you awake.”
Cut Out The Caffeine
Did you know that caffeine will stay in your system for up to five hours, meaning it can have an effect on your body for over five hours after you ingest it. So, if you’re looking to turn in by 10 it’s probably not a good idea to have a double espresso at 5pm. “We generally say don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon and limit your intake to two cups per day,” says Dr. Arand. And did you know that if you are addicted to Starbucks seasonal lattes that you might be getting more caffeine than you bargained for as some have more than five times the regular amount? “Specialty coffee can have five times the amount of caffeine found in one cup of regular coffee,” Dr Arand says. So, if you must have that Mocha Latte, just be sure you drink it early in the morning and not during the afternoon slump, otherwise you’ll be bouncing off the walls all night.
Turn Off Your Devices
Even President Obama isn’t connected to the internet 24/7, and he is undoubtedly the most important person on the planet, so if he can switch off, so can you. “Instead of creating an environment of relaxing and shutting down, it becomes an environment where you are potentially stressing out about things that you are reading on the computer,” says Dr. Arand. So, take the TV, the phones, the computers, and all other distracting gadgets out of the bedroom, or at least turn them off, put them away, and let yourself shut down mentally.
No More Nightcaps
Alcohol might initially make you feel drowsy but after this has metabolized you get a stimulant effect which will work as an arousal and wake you up. “Alcohol is the most commonly used over-the-counter treatment for insomnia in the country,” says Dr. Arand. “While alcohol is initially a depressant — it will make you feel relaxed and sleepy — after it is metabolized three or four hours later, there is this secondary stimulation or arousal affect from the alcohol wearing off. So, you might find yourself awake at 2 in the morning and unable to fall asleep because your brain is stimulated and is now bouncing back from being slowed down.”
Eat An Early Supper
“We recommend not eating within a couple hours of going to bed,” says Dr. Arand. “When you have a full stomach, it can interrupt your sleep because it redirects the endocrine system and other activities to digest the food. It’s disruptive when the brain is trying to go to sleep and the body is focusing on digestion.” However, if you are one of those people who wake up in the middle of the night absolutely starving, Dr. Arand says it’s perfectly acceptable to make yourself a light, healthy snack — it will help satiate the hunger pains and let you drift back off. She suggests opting for foods that contain tryptophan, and especially dairy products. But you must avoid foods with caffeine, like chocolate, and any spicy foods, if you suffer from acid reflux, as they will upset your esophagus and make it difficult to fall back asleep.
Turn The Lights Off
“People do sleep better and longer in a completely blacked-out room,” says Dr. Arand. That’s because our bodies are very attuned to the light/dark cycle, a holdover from our caveman ancestors. Before electricity, our bodies learned when it was time to be awake and active and when it was time to sleep based on the sun. “There are sensors in the eye that monitor the amount of light around you, and they trigger the circadian clock to say ‘yes, it’s light out, you should be alert,’ or ‘it’s dark out, turn down the activity system’ so we start to wind down. If you have light in your room while you’re trying to sleep, you are giving your brain mixed signals.”