If you find yourself struggling with your quality of sleep of amount of sleep during menopause, you’re not alone. In fact, 30-60% of women suffer from insomnia during this stage of life*. Whilst experiencing poor sleep can be tough, the good news is that there are evidence-based and NHS recommended techniques that can help you improve your sleep during this time.
Don't spend too long in bed.
The first thing we do when we can't sleep is to start going to bed earlier to try and increase our hours of sleep. Reduce the amount of time you spend in bed awake, go to bed later and get up earlier, this will encourage your body’s natural sleep drive to kick in. By reducing the time you spend in bed you will crave more sleep, fall asleep faster and find your quality of sleep improving
Stop watching the clock.
If you are waking from hot flushes, then it’s very tempting to look at the clock every time to monitor how little sleep you are getting. However, this increases the pressure to fall back to sleep and makes it less likely. Set your alarm for the morning then avoid looking at the time again
Don't lie awake in bed.
If you can't get to sleep or have woken in the middle of the night due to a hot flush, get out of bed. The longer we lie in bed trying to fall back to sleep, the more frustrated we get. This means we begin to subconsciously relate bed to feeling stressed and being awake rather than asleep. Leave the bedroom and do something relaxing like reading a book in another room, then when you are tired go back to bed
Don’t expect too much from your sleep.
The worst thing you can do is worry about it, as worrying about sleep is worse than not sleeping. Try to find ways during the day to increase energy such as fresh air, daylight and healthy food. As menopause can be a difficult time, don’t expect too much from your sleep
Recognise the connection between stress and sleep.
Even if your sleep improves, stress is exhausting. So, make sure you’re managing stress too. Every day, allocate a 20-minute window of time to write down everything you’re worried about. This is a great way of telling your mind that you are not ignoring your worries, but rather you’re acknowledging them at a time that is suitable for you. Always use a pen and paper, as this is a much more effective way to empty your mind than using a digital device.
Once this 20-minute window is up, move on, do something you enjoy and if any thoughts or worries pop up simply make a note of them and then allow yourself to think about them during your allocated time later on. This technique will teach your mind to be more proactive about when you worry, so the worries are not constantly intruding
If you’re feeling symptoms of anxiety and panic, take a deep breath. Then remember, with the correct techniques, you can learn how to manage your symptoms, which will, in turn, help you to sleep better.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia
Repeatedly shown to help menopausal women improve their sleep, and what I practice with The Insomnia Clinic, is CBT for insomnia (CBT-i) is an NHS recommended course of treatment. It helps people understand what they need to sleep well and changes their habits and behaviours to promote a better quality of sleep. With recommended techniques, up to 80% of people see improved sleep, often in under four weeks.
*Joffe, H, Massler, A & Sharkey, K. M (2010) Evaluation and management of sleep disturbance during the menopause transition. Seminars in reproductive medicine, 28 (5) 404-421