Sleep is a huge issue in the menopause and the majority of women will suffer from poor sleep or sleep-related problems at some point. I know I've covered it before, but what we want to do this time is to have a sleep month because I want to go into everything in a lot more detail. So we're going to be looking at different aspects of sleep over the next four weeks. The first one this week is, "Can poor sleep cause mood swings?" And the answer is definitely yes!
Sleep and menopause
But why on earth does going through the menopause cause sleep problems to start with? A lot of it is to do with falling oestrogen. We know that oestrogen or falling oestrogen can interfere with the way we fall asleep and the way we stay asleep. So it takes us a lot longer to fall asleep.
We also end up being in a much shallower sleep, so things that wouldn't have woken up or disturbed our sleep before will now do so. That could be things like if you're getting flushes and sweats, if you're getting leg cramps, if you've got joint aches, if your partner's snoring, if there's noise outside; all these things are more likely to wake you up during the night and, very often, it also makes it much more difficult for you then to fall back asleep.
A lot of women also tell me that they start waking up earlier, and that shortens their good sleep time as well. If you're waking up at 4:30 in the morning, and you know you've got to get up at 6:00, very often, just that fact will stop you getting back off to sleep and continuing your rest.
Mood and its impact on sleep
Now, how can mood impact on your sleep?
This is one of these vicious cycles. You’ve had a few nights of poor sleep – who wouldn’t wake up in a bad mood? If you haven't slept well, you're going to feel grumpy. You're going to feel irritable. That state of mood will have an impact on your nervous system and this is all connected.
So, anything that is going to affect and put stress on your nervous system is going to end up affecting your mood.
You can become much more jumpy, much more irritable and also much more annoyed by other people. That revs up your nervous system and by the time you get to bed, your nervous system is going like mad, and that activity will often stop you getting to sleep.
A lot of women find, too, that it's their brain that's going. If you've been in a bad mood or if you lie there at night in bed and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. "I should have said this. I should have done that. Why didn't I do that?" That revs up your nervous system further and this whole scenario goes on and on. You end up with another bad night's sleep. You're moodier again the next day and everything just compounds itself.
Not getting a good night's sleep even for a few nights, will have a huge impact on your other menopause symptoms as well. So it's really a huge issue that's interconnected with a lot of different things as you go through the menopause.
How much sleep do you need?
We're told that we need between about seven and nine hours sleep. However, I felt going through the menopause that I needed a lot more, and I still do even today. I find if I get less than seven hours then I can end up being a bit ratty and I don't feel particularly rested.
And with all the hormonal and physical changes that are going on, our body needs a lot more time just to rest and recuperate.
How to improve your sleep and mood
So how can you sort this out? You need to look at what we call good sleep hygiene. This is about making sure both your body and your mind are relaxed before you go to sleep. I'm going to be going into this in a lot more detail over the next couple of weeks as well.
We need to look at all the things that we can do early evening and late evening that you might not realise are impacting on your sleep quality. We also need to look at breathing. This is so important at helping us to get off to sleep as well as relaxing the mind and the body.
There are a few herbs that you can look at that can help with sleep. We have Dormeasan, one of our licensed products. It's known to work really quickly and can help you get off to sleep faster and help you to stay asleep that little bit longer as well.
My top tip:
A relaxing blend of Valerian and Hops, Dormeasan can help to soothe the nervous system, allowing you to drift into a deep, natural sleep. Take 10-20 drops in a little water or juice if you find the taste too unpleasant, 30 minutes before bedtime.
“Has really helped me to sleep especially with the advice on the site as to how best to take it for the best results.”
Read what others are saying about Dormeasan
If it's low mood that is the issue and you find that that's really affecting you during the day and impacting on your sleep, we have the herb called hypericum which is known to boost mood. This one takes about three to four weeks to kick in, so it's not particularly fast-acting.
There are contraindications with other prescribed medications, so you really need to be on no medication from the doctor at all before we would say it's okay to take this one.
We've also got Relaxing Essence. This is my favourite one to try if I'm lying in bed at night and my mind is running ahead of me by miles. The flower essences are lovely because they just switch your brain off and allow your body and mind to relax. The lovely thing about the essences is you can keep them by your bed. They're in a little dropper so, if you do wake up as well in the middle of the night, you don't even need to switch the light on, you can just reach for it. Just three or four drops on the tongue and, very often, that can help you to fall back asleep as well.
The relaxation essence can also be used during the day. If you find that maybe work or other things during your day are winding your nervous system up then you can take it two or three times.
What I will be talking about next week:
Next week, I am going to be looking at other symptoms that can be made worse by sleep and what else you can do to help.
Also, over the next three weeks, I'm going to be talking about those bad bedside habits that you could maybe start to change. Hope you found this interesting and I look forward to continuing with this four-part series on sleep and the menopause.