Deep sleep is so important, helping with the release of human growth hormone and our ability to store memories. I’ve already mentioned that a drop in your progesterone and estrogen levels can cause you to sleep poorly (bringing on symptoms like hot flashes and heart palpitations), so take my advice from the Hormones section about how to increase those hormone levels naturally. I also talked about the hormone melatonin, and how supplementing with it can help with sleep. Another interesting learning: when your body is sleep-deprived it releases more cortisol, which can increase your appetite, trigger cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods and cause you to gain weight. Below are some more tips to help you get a good night’s sleep, as well as a calming Yin Yoga video I created.
*Drink water throughout the day Dehydration can cause poor sleep.
*No caffeine after 12pm As we age, we become more caffeine-sensitive.
*Make sure your bedroom is dark enough The darker the better. There is a lot of research out there now showing that light pollution greatly affects sleep.
*Turn off electronic devices such as cell phones, TVs, tablets, and computers at least 30 minutes before bedtime to prevent a disruption in your melatonin production.
*Turn down the temperature Cooler temperatures help to slow your heart rate and calm your body. I’ve read that the optimal temperature for sleep is between 60-75 degrees. (60 degrees might sound really cold but, take it from me, if you’re having hot flashes at night, you're going to want it that cold!) Experiment to see what works best for you.
*Establish a calming bedtime routine This could include taking a relaxing bath, reading, writing in a gratitude journal, doing gentle yoga and breathing techniques, diffusing essential oils or meditating. Check out the Yin Yoga video I share below.
*Be consistent with your bedtime and wake time All hormonal systems are connected and driven by the body’s daily rhythm. That means that you can support your hormones by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
*Avoid heavy meals late in the evening A light snack like nuts is OK as it can help stop you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night, but otherwise try not to eat anything 2-3 hours before bed.
*Cut out sugar and alcohol in the evening Dessert may sound comforting and wine may sound relaxing, but they're not when they're waking you up at 3am.
*Exercise earlier in the day Vigorous exercise later in the evening has a stimulating effect and can delay the onset of sleepiness.
*White noise A white noise machine or app, a fan, or even the low hum of a humidifier can help lull you to sleep and keep you asleep.
*Natural sunlight Getting outside in natural sunlight first thing in the morning can help you sleep better at night.
*Progesterone cream helps you feel calmer and more relaxed.
*BHRT (Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy) when all else fails against the hot flashes. More on this coming up.
*Herbs + Supplements Valerian, chamomile, lavender, passionflower and motherwort may all be helpful, as well as melatonin supplements.
*Stress Take a hard look at what is causing stress in your life--and cut it out. Be fierce about it! Stress has a HUGE impact on your sleep.
In this 1-hour Yin Yoga Sequence, practice restorative poses, calming inversions + forward bends, and twists that help you 'digest' the mental and emotional experiences from your day so you feel more relaxed when you are ready for bed.
*Track your sleep for a few days, including how many hours of sleep you get each night, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up at night, how you feel in the morning, etc.
*Pick some of the sleep suggestions above you would like to experiment with. List them out and then try one at a time for a few days to see how they work for you. Do you notice any changes in your quality of sleep?
*Do the mellow Yin Yoga sequence above (preferably in the evening) and note how you feel afterward. Does it help you sleep any better? If so, can you incorporate it into your perimenopause plan on a weekly basis?