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If you find yourself awake in the small hours desperately willing yourself asleep, it may be that menopause is the culprit in question. A common symptom of menopause, insomnia during this time is caused by a number of reasons linked to the changes happening to your body. So why does it happen and what can be done to improve your quality of sleep? We've combined the collective wisdom of Gransnet users and put together the most useful tips to help you get some shut-eye.
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While sleep is essential for both your physical and mental wellbeing, it's often difficult to switch off at night - no matter how tired we might be before our heads hit the pillow. In fact, the NHS predicts that 1/3 of us will experience insomnia during our lives. But during menopause there are a number of factors which mean that many women have sleep problems during this time:
"I used to have awful night sweats, having to get up and dry myself three or four times a night."
"I have been suffering from these debilitating night sweats for over a year now. I can’t remember the last time I had more than an hours sleep at any one time."
Hot flushes and night sweats are common menopausal symptoms which can be responsible for insomnia due to the discomfort they cause. As women reach menopause and hormone levels - namely oestrogen and progesterone - change, this can create havoc with our body temperature regulation, resulting in those sweats which can keep you up in the middle of the night.
"I became anxious, depressed and extremely emotional when going through the menopause."
Another unpleasant side effect of menopause is mood changes, including anxiety and depression, which can lead to sleepless nights spent worrying. This, like many other symptoms, is caused by the dip in oestrogen levels.
"For the first few years I suffered from insomnia. I didn't take any night sedation, and just tried to get on with everyday life. I worked permanent night duty too! I am pleased to say that now, 10 years since my last period, my sleeping pattern has more or less returned to normal."
As well as causing the other issues that have a knock-on effect on your sleep, you can blame hormones yet again for the difficulty you may face when trying to nod off. Progesterone levels - a sleep-producing hormone - decrease as you go through menopause, meaning it may be more challenging to get the recommended seven to nine hours sleep a night.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective drug used to treat menopause symptoms. It's been proven to reduce hot flushes, so if that's what's keeping you up at night, it may be worth talking to your doctor about the treatments available to you. HRT isn't without its risks though, as it can increase the chances of certain types of cancer and blood clots. If you'd like to know more about the drug, you can visit our guide to HRT for more information here.
Easier said than done, we know. If you suffer from night sweats, something to consider is a cooling gel pad for your bed. They work by directing heat away from the body and, as a bonus, soothe aches and pains too. There's also this pillow gel inlay from Amazon that helps to keep your temperature down.
It goes without saying that turning the heating down as low as you can stand it during the night, assuming you don't already, should help, as well as investing in a fan to cool you down. Another solution is buying an empty spray bottle, like this one from Boots, so you can fill it up with cool water and use it as a mist during hot flushes.
Do you use your phone just before bed? Watch TV? Browse
Gransnet the web on your laptop? Using electrical devices within an hour of going to bed means that you're absorbing extra blue light - which disturbs your circadian rhythm, which in turn disturbs your sleep. If you don't want to forgo your favourite programme before bed (and don't mind looking like a bit of a chump for an hour) invest in a pair of blue light-blocking goggles, like these Skyper Safety Glasses, £23.99, Amazon.
Whether your thing is walking, swimming or a maybe a gentle exercise DVD, in order to get a good night's sleep, it's important to stay active during the day. Getting half an hour's exercise four times a week should help you settle in for a better night's rest - provided you finish exercising two to three hours before you actually hit the hay.
Tracking your sleep means that you can monitor how many hours of deep sleep you get per night. This means when you've figured out how much deep sleep you need to feel refreshed, you can find out how many hours in total you need in order to hit that optimum number. The Sleep Cycle app not only monitors your sleep, but wakes you up gently during a period of shallow sleep.
Paul McKenna's apps are both popular and are reported to be effective. Claiming to reprogramme your brain for sleep, at just over a fiver it's certainly a cheaper option than hypnotherapy that doesn't compromise on efficacy.
Natural sleep remedies are important for those who prefer not to use medication as a sleep aid. Amid rave reviews, it appears that this product, as the name suggests, does actually work. Spritz all over your pillow before bed and let it soothe you to sleep. If you wake up during the night and find the scent has worn off, give it another spray.
Infused with jujube and camomile, The Body Shop's quick-drying pillow and body mist has a lovely fragrance and, again, is reported to help to relax enough to send you off into a deep sleep.
Disclaimer: The information on our health pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult your GP before you begin any diet if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.