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The Power of Sleep

Sleep is a critical component of your countdown to wellness. You need solid sleep for optimum memory, metabolic and immune functions. You need solid sleep to prevent lapses in judgment and perception, irritability, moodiness and inability to concentrate. You need solid sleep to do the things you like to do and to be the best YOU you can be.

My mom said it best, a good day means a good sleep. When I was growing up, I didn’t fully understand what she meant. Now, of course, at the end of a stressful day when I’m tossing and turning, I’m aware of the wisdom of her words. For me, a good day includes healthy, balanced meals, exercise and fresh air, productivity, managed stress, some fun…and sex.

Like all of us, any manner of things can impact my day and rob me of much needed sleep. Physical factors are among other variables, especially during menopause.

What keeps YOU from sleeping? Worry? Overstimulation? Hormones? Your partner’s snoring? Are you a night owl? Do you use the wee hours to catch up on quiet time after a super busy day, rather than sleeping? Do you fall asleep easily but wake up with a start 3 hours later? Do thoughts cycle through your mind like it’s a revolving door? Do you obsess about not sleeping and look at the clock so often it becomes impossible to fall asleep?

There are as many possible ways to improve your sleep, as there are causes for sleeplessness. They all begin with consistent habits and calming environments. After that, the list is long. With a bit of trial and error, you’ll find the combination that’s right for you. Remember, don’t underestimate the power of sleep.

REGULAR HABITS + CALM SURROUNDINGS + DIET & EXERCISE = LASTING IMPACT

Consider my nighttime strategies, find the one(s) that are right for you, and your road to wellness will be paved with quiet nights and sounder sleep.

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark and create a relaxed atmosphere. Use your bed exclusively for sleeping (and sex), not watching television, reading blogs or answering email. Minimize bedroom clutter, particularly the kind of clutter that reminds you of all the things you’ve left undone. If possible, remove digital electronic devices with flashing lights and bright LED displays from your sightlines.
  • Use a white-noise machine or fan for a gentle blanket of calming sound.
  • Establish a viable routine. Try to get into to bed around the same time every night…or as many nights a week as possible.
  • As the evening winds down, wind down the intensity of your activities. Don’t start new household projects, tackle complex issues with a family member or try to catch up on work late in the evening. I can assure you, they will keep you up no matter how tired you are when you fall into bed.
  • On the subject of family members, don’t go to bed angry with your spouse, lover, roommate, children, parents…anyone. Table controversial conversations. Write down what’s bothering you and save it for the morning. Chances are, in the light of day, whatever it was won’t be as bothersome.
  • Don’t drink to excess. Many people believe that alcohol will help them sleep. You may nod off in a hurry, but your sleep will be more disrupted than usual and you’re likely to be up with a start a few hours later. If you have had too much wine at dinner, be sure to drink water before you go to sleep so you don’t get dehydrated in the night.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night is more common that most of us realize. Many people simply roll over and are asleep again in a minute or two. Insomniacs and others become anxious that they’ll never get back to sleep. If that sounds like you, reassure yourself that you’ll be fine and asleep before too long. Don’t keep checking the clock – that simply will increase your anxiety.
  • If worries wake you up or prevent your from sleeping at the outset, instead of tossing and turning in bed, get up and do something nice for yourself…something that will relax you. Have a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea or a glass of warm milk and a few crackers. Read a magazine. Massage body lotion into your shoulders, on your hands and feet. Listen to some soothing music. I advise against watching television, listening to the news or going anywhere near your computer, tablet or cell phone.
  • Keep a note pad next to your bed. If you wake up with your mind racing, make a note for the morning rather than lying in bed worrying that you won’t remember your sleep-interrupting thoughts. Or, if those thoughts fill your head before it hits the pillow, write them down and set them aside for consideration the next day.
  • Similarly, if you’re prone to waking up thirsty – especially if you’ve been drinking – and stumbling to the kitchen, keep a glass of water at your bedside so you can stay put.

Hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, those horrid mainstays of menopause, cause countless sleepless nights for millions of women. Whether or not you take medication – prescribed by your doctor or purchased over the counter, some simple adjustments will help.

  • Whether you sleep in a t-shirt, pajamas or a nightgown, wear natural fibers to bed. Cotton is the coolest and best, as it will absorb the perspiration that pours out of your body. I recommend cotton sheets, as well, especially if you sleep in the buff. Cotton blends and synthetics, especially polyester, will make you even hotter and will not absorb your sweat.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool and well ventilated.
  • Stay away from spicy foods and alcohol. Both can raise your body heat and cause you perspire.
  • Be careful about caffeine, especially near bedtime.
  • Get regular exercise, though not within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Have sex. I can report first hand that having regular sex with your partner, even if you have to schedule it, can mitigate menopause symptoms and help you sleep. Click here to read more on the subject.
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