6 ways you’re ruining your sleep during menopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

18 March 2019

Today's topic

So here we are, week 3 of our sleep month. Today, I’m going to be discussing all the things that we tend to do that can interfere with our sleep.

1. You eat a large meal before bedtime

Number one is having a large meal at night, especially if you have it quite late on. Anytime you are digesting food, it uses up a lot of energy which can affect you falling asleep. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a lighter meal in the evening and to try and have it a little bit earlier if you can. Some women find that swapping meals round can help them. So, you could have a bigger meal at lunchtime and just that little bit of a lighter meal during the evening.

The other thing that happens if you're eating a lot at night is that your liver is involved with part of the digestive process. We know that, if the liver revs up too much, it will wake you up very quickly between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. I've done a video blog on the liver, so if you're interested in this aspect, then certainly click on and have a little look at that one. It is very interesting.

What to do instead:

So have a smaller meal in the evening and that can sometimes make a lot of difference to how you fall asleep and also the quality of your sleep, too.

2. You drink alcohol to help you fall asleep

Number two is alcohol. Well, we all like a nice nightcap, don't we? It is said that alcohol will help you get to sleep and yes, it does. The problem is that if you drink too much, then you end up going into a very deep sleep, but you don't get a restful sleep. This means that you can wake up very, very quickly and may find you can’t get back to sleep.

Again, if you've had too much alcohol, the liver will be involved and that would be another reason, especially if you're waking up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. I know from personal experience that if I have a little bit too much to drink, then I usually end up waking up about 2:30 in the morning and I will not get back to sleep until about 3:30.

t's just impossible if you're in liver mode; you really can't get back off to sleep until your liver calms down.

What to do instead:

So what to do here? It is better not to drink alcohol at night if you can. If not, then just try and pace it a little bit more just to give your liver a little bit of a rest.

They do say that it takes the liver about one hour to process one unit of alcohol. The other thing with alcohol is that it will dehydrate you too, and we know that dehydration at night can be a big factor in triggering night sweats. So, this is one where, again, the alcohol might be very pleasant, but it can cause quite a few problems during the night as well.

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3. You drink caffeine or smoke a cigarette before bed

Number three, caffeine and smoking. Both of these will rev up your nervous system and it will be much more difficult to unwind as you are trying to get to sleep.

We also know that caffeine and nicotine will trigger night sweats and hot flushes as well. So again, this is another little bad habit, if you like, that can cause a lot of problems during the night. Did you know that it takes your liver about eight hours to process one cup of coffee?

So sometimes, that late afternoon cup of coffee will be affecting your sleep as well. A number of women have told me that they've cut out their after-dinner cup of coffee or tea and it's made a huge difference to their sleeping patterns, so this is one that's certainly worth trying out.

What to do instead:

You can look at calming drinks in the evening. Things like chamomile tea, lemon balm tea, and there's plenty of lots of lovely combinations of herb teas that you can get to aid sleep.

So definitely, next time you're in your health food shop, have a look at that particular section and there'll be really great choices for you. You can also look at our Relaxation Essence. This is a nice one just to help to calm the mind down and to help you fall off to sleep that little bit more easily.

4. Your bedroom is too warm or cold

Number four: is your room too hot or too cold? Your body temperature lowers as you are trying to get off to sleep and, if your room is too hot, then that is going to interfere with you dropping off.

So, your room temperature really needs to be round about 16 to 18 degrees for a better night's sleep.

The other thing that can happen is that flushes and sweats are more likely if you are too warm. Unfortunately, with duvets, especially the man-made ones, they very often don’t let you breathe very well. This is true with some of these mattresses as well, like the memory foam mattresses. They really don’t allow your body to breathe and, if you’re sandwiched between both of them, it can really raise your body temperature.

What to do instead:

So make sure that you get plenty of air around the body during the night, maybe look at making sure you've got cotton sheets and some kind of natural fillings for your duvet.

Wear cotton pyjamas or a nightie. I know some women tell me that they find that they have a better night's sleep wearing absolutely nothing, so that's something else that you could maybe have a little experiment with, too.

Now, leave the window open as well if you can because sometimes, stale air will be a factor too, and breathing in some nice fresh air at night also helps the body generally.

5. You’re lying awake in bed

If you do wake up in the middle of the night and you can't get back to sleep, if you're lying there, very often, it will be all these thoughts will be going round in your head. Did you remember to do something or have you forgotten to do something? And you start making up lists in your head.

This habit will stop you from getting off to sleep but so can a variety of other scenarios; a late night toilet run, for example, or night sweats, can also make it really hard to drop off too.

What to do instead:

If you're really tossing and turning, sometimes it's better to get up for a little while. It's almost like you're resetting your body. You're getting out of that habit of just lying there and thinking, and tossing and turning. Don’t switch on the lights when you get up though, because that wakes your whole brain up. Instead, maybe sit with a very dim light and do a little bit of reading.

You could also do something like writing in your journal. Some women find that at midevening or midnight, getting up and doing something creative can be very, very restful. The only thing I would say here is don't get up in the middle of the night and then start doing housework because that is not going to help you get back off to sleep.

Sometimes, again, for some women, it's because they've been dehydrated, so a little calming drink of chamomile may help. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes find a nice cup of rooibos tea can just help to break that cycle, and then I get back into bed and I can drop off quite easily.

If you're being woken up by the night sweats, you can look at sage tablets. Again though, if it's the liver angle you could look at taking milk thistle in the evening before you go to bed.

6. You’re working out when you should be winding down

Number six is exercise. Is exercise revving you up or are you doing it too near bedtime? If you’re doing a lot of exercise this can agitate your nervous system as it's raising your body temperature, and this will stop you relaxing.

What to do instead:

So, if you're one of these people that like to exercise at night, allow at least two to three hours after your exercise before you're ready to go to bed just to help your body to wind down a little bit as well.

Other bad bedtime habits

Those are the six main ones, but there are a few other little ones that can be a big factor in poor sleep as well. Mobile phones and TVs in the bedroom; they should be banned. Apart from the fact that, you know, they're keeping you wide awake, the blue light actually hinders your body's ability to start winding down.

So these really should be avoided if at all possible. It’s also amazing how many people say that their dog or their cat is lying on the bottom of the bed as this can interrupt your sleep as well, so they're best kept to their own beds.

An untidy bedroom is another factor worth considering. This is all to do with things like feng shui where the energy of the room can be disrupted if you have too much clutter going on.

Are you working in the evening? Are you paying bills? Are you working on the computer? Are you doing anything that's keeping your brain really active? Again, give yourself plenty of time just to calm down.

The other thing to consider is exciting or scary films and books because these, again, can put your nervous system on edge. I like reading in evening, but I know I have to watch the kind of books I read at night very carefully because, if I end up with a thriller, then that’s my bedtime put back quite a while as it takes so long for me to calm down.

So, hopefully, these tips have helped you. If none of these really apply to you, have a look at what you're doing in the evening and in the run-up to the evening because there may be something that you've gotten to the habit of that's affecting your sleep as well.

Next week, I'm going to be discussing good foods that help to calm you down and to help you sleep.

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