There is nothing worse than lying in bed night after night, tossing and turning, only to have to get up for work the next morning, feeling absolutely, miserable and exhausted. For women experiencing menopause symptoms and sleeplessness, insomnia is a common complaint that makes life miserable. In addition to the problem with getting to sleep and then staying asleep, menopausal women also have to deal with things like hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, headaches, and joint pains, making sleep not just difficult but near impossible.
When you consider that menopause can last anywhere from two to ten years, you can imagine how horrible these women feel. With the lack of sleep, other problems set in to include depression, anxiety, irritability, frustration, and significant mood swings.
Wrapping all these things together and it is no wonder menopause is often called “the curse”. Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is an excellent way to feel good and alert, being ready and able to face the world head-on with success. However, to get a full understanding of how important sleep is, we have outlined some great information along with tips for improving sleep.
Menopause Symptoms and Sleeplessness
The truth is that sleep is one of the body’s most mysterious and important functions. During sleep, the consciousness of the outside world is suspended. At this time, a person is unable to hear or see. Other characteristics of sleep include a decreased movement of the muscles, a slower metabolism, and complex and active brain wave patterns.
In all, there are five different stages of sleep required for a person to have a healthy mind and body. Just remember that when a woman is in the midst of menopause, she is already dealing with so many things. Therefore, when you add in the fact that sleep is a precious but rare commodity, life can be more than challenging.
For women to get and stay on top of all the other symptoms of menopause, sleep is essential. This type of rest actually helps restore and rejuvenate the body in many ways. For instance, lack of memory, which is just one of the problems menopausal women face can be improved with proper sleep.
With a good night’s sleep, the brain is able to encode new information, storing it properly. During REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which is the deepest stage of sleep, parts of the brain that control learning are activated. These same areas of the brain are also responsible for controlling decision-making, social interaction, and emotions.
The next benefit of sleep has to do with the body’s nervous system. Experts believe that when a person sleeps, neurons that were used up during the day have time to repair. If the neurons are not repaired, they cannot perform effectively, meaning the nervous system is impaired.
Another benefit of good sleep is associated with the immune system. For a person to fight off infection and illness, a strong immune system is needed. With sleep, this system is able to function effectively by allowing cells to increase in production while proteins begin to break down but slowly.
Keep in mind that proper sleep does not equate to the number of hours in bed. Now, typically six to eight hours of sleep is better than two to four hours but the real key is the stages, reaching each as intended so you get the deep, rest needed for the body to restore and rebuild.
The Fives Stages of Sleep
The five stages of sleep include 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM. Each of these stages represents something different for a person’s mental and physical wellness. Therefore, when you sleep, the body will begin at stage 1 and cycle through. Generally, stages 1, 2, and possible 3 place you in a light sleep, meaning you could be awakened relatively easy whereas stage 4 and REM are extremely deep.
Stage 1 equates to drowsiness. With this stage, you would drift in and out for 10 to 15 minutes. During stage 1, you could be awakened easily and during this time, the eyes move slowly while muscle activity slows down. Stage 2 is what we call light sleep.
In this stage, eye movement stops completely while the brain waives slow down although there are bursts of sleep spindles, which are rapid waves. In addition, the heart will beat slower and the body’s temperature decreases.
For stages 3 and 4, the brain waves are called delta, which are small interspersed with fast. During both stages, awakening is difficult. When you do awaken, you tend to feel groggy, almost disoriented for a few minutes.
Finally, you have the REM stage where breathing becomes rapid, shallow, and irregular. The eyes will jerk in different directions very quickly, the body’s muscles are temporarily paralyzed, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and in this stage, you dream.
Stay out of “Sleep Debt”
If you are going through menopause, you want to look for telltale signs of not getting the right type or amount of sleep. This would include awakening feeling moody, irritable, anxious, or depressed, having trouble getting out of bed, not being able to concentrate well, or falling asleep while on the job, all clear indicators of poor sleep.
What happens is that you are going into a mode known as “sleep debt”, which means your body has to somehow make up for the lack of good sleep.
As you can imagine, with menopause, you are also trying to deal with all the symptoms, making the sleep issue a serious problem. You find that you have impaired memory, physical impairment, and inadequate emotional response. Women going through menopause often complain about insomnia and poor sleeping habits, not by choice.
Remember, in addition to having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, you also have the unwanted effects of night sweats, hot flashes, joint pain, and so on. With this, you may get to stage 2 or 3 but then constantly awaken so you never reach stage 4 or most importantly, REM, the rebuilding and restoring stage.
If sleep is a problem for you during your menopause years, you have choices for making the situation better. For starters, you must establish consistency when it comes to bedtime. That means setting a time to get into bed, whether 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm, or 11:00 pm.
Even if you do not fall asleep immediately, you need to teach your body that at that time, it needs to start unwinding and relaxing. In addition, incorporate things like a cup of chamomile tea or soft music to bedtime to help you relax. Try relaxing techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, imagery, or yoga.
You can also promote healthy sleep by never eating your evening meal past 7:00 pm (6:00 pm is best if possible), avoiding soda, or coffee with caffeine, and keeping the television turned off. Additionally, you might try sipping on a cup of warm milk about 20 minutes prior to going to bed.
Dairy products contain a natural sleep enhancer called Tryptophan. This coupled with the warm temperature helps boost the body’s temperature to promote drowsiness. If none of these things work in getting you to sleep, talk to your doctor about possible sleeping aids. Now, in addition to prescription medications, you have natural options as well such as Kava Kava.
In most cases, women with menopause find that once the problem with sleep is corrected, the other symptoms seem to lessen. The reason – the body has time to rest and recover. Instead of the body fighting, it can relax so all the other symptoms begin to decrease.
Today, there are too many options for getting a good night’s sleep to simply deal with poor sleep. If you are in the midst of menopause and tired of being tired, consider all your options. Soon, depression will cease, joint pain will lessen, mood swings and irritability will fade, and you will once again feel as if you can conquer the world.