Struggling to get to sleep? Tips & tricks to help

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

30 March 2020

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about struggling to get to sleep at the moment and some tips and tricks that hopefully will help you.
The problem at the moment is with all this extra stress and anxiety, and worry going around, one of the things that are nearly always affected is our ability to get to sleep and to stay asleep. And I know for me, it's a big issue. I'm finding this quite a difficult one to tackle.

I did mention this before in my anxiety blog, so I thought I would go into this one in just a little bit more detail, and just to give you some tips and tricks that hopefully will help you get off to sleep.

Why is a good night’s sleep so important

Our founder, Alfred Vogel, said that sleep was the one remedy that we could not do without. And it's true. Sleep is so important for so many aspects of our life. It helps our body to repair itself while we're resting. It helps to support our immune function. It's needed for our emotional health and also, it's known that if you don't sleep well, you'd be more prone to put weight on. So this is certainly quite a big issue.

The main problem you will find is that you will either not be able to drop off to sleep because they'll be thoughts going on in your head. Your mind will be running away with you. When you do get to sleep, you may have a more restless sleep, so you might wake up a lot more.

You then find it's a lot more difficult to get back to sleep, and especially if you get woken up having to go to the toilet, or you're getting night sweats. And for some women, waking up a few hours early in the morning, but not being able to get back to sleep, can be a problem.

Why can I not get to sleep?

Stress and anxiety

Why do anxiety and stress have such a big impact on our sleep? The main reason is that when our hormones are falling in the menopause, our nervous system is dragged in, and our flight-and-fight response becomes much more sensitive. If we then add on more anxiety and stress, then our flight-and-fight response sometimes basically just gets stuck. It doesn't switch off.

I see our nervous system as a separate entity. It has a mind of its own, and it needs lots and lots of TLC. If your nervous system is on flight-or-fight, all it's doing is looking out for danger.

It's keeping your mind alert as to what is going on. So if you're ready to go to bed and your nervous system is in this mode, and you think to yourself, "Oh, I'll just go to bed." Your nervous system is going, "No, you're not. If you go to sleep, I won't be able to look after you. I won't be able to alert you if there is any danger."

So, it just hinders you from getting off to sleep. If you do finally get off, your flight-or-fight response is running the whole time in the background. It won't let you have a really good night's sleep because it thinks there might be a danger, and in which case, the slightest thing will wake you up.

Other issues that make it difficult to fall sleep

Your bladder just might be that little bit uncomfortable. You might find that noise from the house, someone else getting up, or noise from the street, or just any little sound, your nervous system is going to be in there waking you up. And very often, that will be accompanied by things like palpitations and/or a night sweat or a hot flush.

What to do to before bedtime

So what we need to do here, to combat this one, is that we have to trick our nervous system into thinking that everything is okay. So, how can we do this?

Don't go to bed if you're not sleepy

There's nothing worse than trying to force yourself to get off to sleep, so even delay your bedtime for half an hour, if you can do that.

Preparation is essential!

The other thing is to prepare at least an hour in advance. This is where you help to calm your nervous system so that it will allow you to fall off to sleep. So you cut out the TV, all your computers and phones, any of the blue light as well, and do nice, calming things.

Some people like to read, but it depends on what you're reading. I like crime books and adventure books, and they very often rev up your nervous system. So if you're going to read, just make sure that the books are nice and calming ones, not ones that are going to frighten you just before you go to bed.

Some people find that having a nice warm bath can help. Don't have it too hot because if you're getting night sweats, that will start to raise your temperature. And a few drops of lavender oil in the bath can be really lovely.

Dim the lights, so that your mind is already thinking that night is coming, and it's going to prepare you for getting off to sleep.

Write down your worries

Some people find that it helps to write down their worries of the day. Other people find that it's really helpful to write down your blessings, look at the nice things that have happened, even if things seem really bleak around you. And very often, these can release some of the fears that you may be holding onto as you go to bed.

Don’t rely on alcohol to get you off to sleep

Yes, it will probably knock you out. But the problem is that alcohol puts you into such a deep sleep that you don't get your dream sequences, that can stress your liver during the night, and that can wake you up. So alcohol is not a good one for helping you to get off to sleep because you won't wake up particularly refreshed in the morning.

Cut down on the caffeine

That cup of coffee that you're having at 3:00 in the afternoon could still be interfering with your nervous system. Caffeine hits the nervous system hard and revs it up. So don't have high-caffeine drinks in the evening.

Watch what you eat

Don't have high salt and sugar foods either because they will rev your nervous system up as well. What to have is a good snack about an hour before you go to bed just to help to calm your blood sugars down because if they're extra jumpy, that's going to contribute to your nervous system firing again in the middle of the night.

What to do when you are in bed and struggling to sleep

There are several things you can do when you have gone to bed but can't sleep.

Deep breathing exercises

If you wake up in the middle of the night and find that you can't get back to sleep, deep breathing exercises can be nice.

So do the breathing in for four, hold for one, breathe out for four and very often, that will calm the nervous system.

Curl your toes

Another really good tip is when you're lying down on your back, take a deep breath in, and as you're breathing in, curl your toes up as tight as you can, hold everything tight, and then relax. And very often, doing that a few times, again, will help to relax you, and help you to drop off to sleep just that little bit quicker.

More sleep tips

I've done a few blogs on sleep, so if you want more details and more tips, then you can find more information in my blogs listed below:
How to sleep better during menopause
3 sleep problems during menopause
6 ways you're ruining your sleep during menopause

I hope this one helps because getting a good night's sleep can make things feel much better the next day.

Remember, I'm doing biweekly blogs just now, so there will be another one along in a few days. So, I'll see you then.

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