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  • Writer's pictureTami

Why can’t I sleep? Yet another fun side effect of being a woman

womens sleep

For some reason the fall always reminds me that I don’t get enough sleep. Maybe it’s because we noticeably lose daylight, or it’s getting colder and making me think of cozy times. Each year I log fewer minutes of nightly sleep, which on its own may not seem like a big deal. I mean a few minutes here and there don’t seem like a big deal. Until it is.

When hubby was overseas, I was pretty used to existing on a 4 hour night, but I was much younger then and times were different. It was before the internet connected loved ones across the miles when you had to literally sit by the phone and wait. You couldn’t get the calls on a cell phone so you needed to sit by your landline for your 5 precious minutes to hear that everyone had all their parts and got your care package. Then you had to wait until the next one sometimes 6 weeks later. Understandably insomnia was a way of life for me then.

Life is different now, and hubby has been retired for a few years, the kids are all living their adult lives, and except for the puppy who apparently doesn’t need sleep I have no real reasons to lose sleep.

Except I do. Just like thousands of women experiencing that wonderfully frustrating time between “child bearing years” and “menopause.” I say it like that because it’s how the medical community describes perimenopause. As if there is a vast no-mans-land of time that just simply exists and no one talks about it. You’re on your own lady. Figure it out and we’ll be here for you on the other side in “MENOPAUSE LAND.”

So much changes for women between 35 and 55- your entire body becomes a whole new body!! Different shape, different sensations, even your mindset is not the same. And yet no one talks about it. No wonder you can’t sleep.

The changes and your concern for the unknown aren’t the only reason that you can’t sleep, and neither are the night sweats, hot flashes, and 42 trips to the bathroom between 12:15am and 4:37am. Among the many things that estrogen and progesterone regulate are the hormones that help you rest, relax, recover, and sleep. We could call it the rest & digest system. As your sex hormones become unpredictable your body relies more on your day-to-day habits to find that state of relaxation and rest. So, what does all of that mean for your sleep?

It means that it’s more important for you to find ways to cultivate your sleep than it used to be. You have to set the stage, put self-care first, and for probably the first time in your life actually make sleep a priority. It’s up to you to make sure that you are doing every thing possible to get good rest because it won’t just happen for you, and you need your rest because the years between your 30s and menopause are full of things that you need to be on your toes to handle. It’s not an easy period in your life to handle with no sleep for sure!

Why do I even need sleep?

I mean, sleep is really nice- and even as a small child my parents would often “lose” me and find me hours later curled up in some hidden away cabinet or dog bed sound asleep. I know, it sounds awful but I apparently chose those places over my very accessible and plush bed. The point is, that many of you are still fighting sleep like it’s some kind of badge of accomplishment to be sleep deprived. I can assure you, it’s not.

Aside from the delightful feeling of waking up well rested and ready to take on your day there are a number of benefits of good sleep that you might not think about. Everything from food choices, to kick ass workout sessions, to stress coping are easier when you are well rested. These are some of the top reasons that you might want to prioritize your zzz’s

  1. You make better choices. From “what’s for dinner” to “can I pull off bell bottoms?” your decision-making skills are improved when your mind has had a chance to rest. If you have the kind of job that you need to make good choices then you should prioritize your sleep.

  2. Going hand-in-hand with the better choices, weight increases when you are sleep deprived. Not only do you crave high calorie’ low nutrition foods when you are tired, but your body goes into fat storage overdrive. Making it really hard to lose weight at all- let alone with calorie restriction.

  3. Inflammation. The buzzword of the 2010’s for a reason. The more we learn about systemic inflammation (inflammation in the body) the more it becomes obvious that it causes a lot of trouble. Inflammation makes it harder for your body to do it’s job to keep you healthy, burn calories, and think on your feet. Conditions from heart disease to cancer have been linked to increased and long-term inflammation.

  4. Resilience to stress. I think we can all think back to a situation where being overly tired resulted in some harsh words and feelings. Small stressors become very big when you are sleep deprived. This also plays into that snowball effect of poor choices, lack of exercise, and weight gain as well as hormone imbalance. Cortisol the hormone that contributes to belly fat- yeah, that’s also going to be more prevalent with less sleep.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Even if you are smack dab in the middle of a pandemic you can still take matters into your own hands. For starters, getting your environment more mindful of restful sleep can earn you valuable minutes every night.

Here are my top 3 mindful sleep practices:

  1. Create a sleep only zone. No electronics, no work, nothing to distract you from sleeping. Get an old school alarm clock, a bedside reading light, and possibly a white noise machine.

  2. Habits matter. Quit eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, work some activity into your day, and pick up a self-care ritual around journal writing or meditation.

  3. Reset your natural rhythm- circadian rhythm that is. Exposure to early morning light and evening light every day can help you get your sleep/ wake cycle back in sync. The catch is that you have to do it outside free of windows that can black certain light waves. You can purchase light bulbs that mimic evening light for next to your bed if getting outside just isn’t possible.

Now that you know how to create a mindful sleep environment you can write out your bedtime routine. Take out your daily planner and a sharpie and write in your sleep habits now. Here are some ideas to get you started, feel free make your own sleep habits that work for you!

Sleep environment prompts:

  • 6-7 hours between bedtime & wake time

  • Spend 15 minutes unwinding and centering from your day with meditation, hygiene rituals, or a bit of restorative yoga

  • Electronic detox 30-45 minutes before bed

  • Evening snack (what will you eat, what time, or is evening eating a no-go for you?)

Try to think of this next stage of life as an opportunity to explore new ways of taking care of yourself and not as punishment for being a woman. Creating a new bedtime routine can open up all kinds of benefits- like better sleep, positive outlook, and an exciting new chapter in your own personal goals.

I’m talking about sleep all month long here and in the Facebook group. Make sure you check out the video in the private Facebook group on what you can eat to help your sleep!

You don't have to take this journey alone! The Perimenopause Society is my new women's wellness membership for ladies like you who want to educate yourself, feel supported, and make sustainable changes in your life! Get on the wait list to be the first to hear when I open the doors.

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