It is common to hear sleep issues discussed in a community of 40+ year old women. According to stats Canada, 35% of women claim to have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Reasons for this vary, but two recurring issues show up in research that hormones and inability to quiet the mind can play major roles in sleep loss for women.
HOW HORMONES IMPACT WOMEN’S SLEEP
Throughout their lifetime, women’s levels of hormones will change several times. They will change during their menstrual cycles, pregnancies, and eventual menopause. Difficulties in sleeping throughout these times can create poor sleep habits, which can be tough to break and, in turn, create a large sleep debt for women.
As hormone levels decline during menopause sleep can become disrupted and this decline can happen a year before the woman actually goes through menopause – during the premenopausal state. It’s during this time where women can experience hot flashes and mood shifts – two large contributors to sleep loss at night. Research shows that 2/3 women will experience hot flashes and these women also associate sleep problems. There is also a chance for increased snoring and developing sleep apnea once estrogen levels decrease.
What Can You Do?
- Incorporate mindfulness techniques. Breathing exercises and yoga can support a woman struggling with menopause and poor sleep – effective, and with no side effects. These methods can also help assist with insomnia and quieting the mind.
- Create a cool environment. Keep room temperatures low; wear layers to bed that can be removed. Put an ice pack underneath your pillow to keep things even cooler and you may have to go as far as changing your bedding and mattress to suit your new body temperature.
- Ask your doctor about hormonal support. Treatment with a low dose of estrogen may provide relief from hot flashes.
- Tell your husband to be patient. This too shall pass, and once a woman goes through the actual menopause, her sleeping (and room temperature) should return to normal. It’s important that your bed partner also informs you if your snoring is increasing; you may need to check in with your doctor for possible sleep-disordered breathing.
Time and time again pregnant women are given the advice “sleep now before the baby comes.” Well that isn’t always so easy and loss of sleep prior to the baby and then postpartum can actually become a very serious issue. It’s no surprise that there is another huge shift in hormones when pregnant and after having a baby. That, combined with a growing body and uncomfortable sleep positions, a baby who enjoys staying awake at night, and the adrenaline that is still coursing through your body from birth, sleep is hard to come by for pregnant mama’s and new parents. Oh and let’s not forget the never ending washroom breaks while pregnant.
What Can You Do?
- Comfort is key. Make sure your bedroom is cool and you are wearing comfortable clothing. Many pregnant women need a body pillow to snuggle up with as it helps relieve pressure caused by their heavy belly.
- Create a sleep tool kit. While pregnant, have earplugs in if light sleep is an issue. Nothing is more frustrating then struggling to sleep, feeling uncomfortable, and having your partner snoring beside you. An eye mask can help block out any light if darkness is what you are after and also provide you with soothing pressure on your face and eyes. Doctor recommended nasal spray or a nasal rinse is perfect for those pregnant women who are experiencing congestion.
Not every woman experiences sleep issues during “that time of the month.” But there are some that struggles with having a solid night of sleep during their menstrual cycle due to pain and discomfort. After a few days within their cycle, their sleep patterns tend to return to normal.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips, subscribe to our newsletter and visit Good Night Sleep Site.