If you’re in menopause, poor sleep may have already been a part of your experience. Heck, it may be coupled with night sweats, hot flashes, or restlessness. Sleeplessness and other menopause symptoms may actually be more frequent or intensified (or both) right now if stress is higher than usual. For many, worried about aging parents, concerned for friends, family, and ourselves, stress is definitely higher than usual.
The sleep function has been referred to as a battery, of sorts. It recharges, restores, and allows the body to come back into balance. During sleep, your immune system actually gets to do some important work.
Let’s talk a little about what happens during sleep, how to improve it, and how to manage stress better, while we’re at it.
Thursday, March 26, 1 - 2 PM Pacific.
Ask Sports Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist, Stasi Kasianchuk, about sleep, stress, and how to manage both better.
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Per Eric J. Olson, M.D., your immune system releases proteins (during sleep) called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
This study further shares, “Sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes. The basis of this influence is a bidirectional communication between the central nervous and immune system which is mediated by shared signals (neurotransmitters, hormones, and cytokines) and direct innervations of the immune system by the autonomic nervous system.” Translation: sleep regulates your immune system.
Most people are not medical or clinical professionals, but intuitively (or on some level) know that sleep is really important.
“How?” you’re asking. Because we tend to worry about it when we aren’t getting enough of it.
This worry, you may already recognize, is yet another form of stress… which can feed a sleepless cycle and make it harder to drift off. So, let’s turn to sleep and stress management, for our immune systems’ sake.
It may be a time to include more support with a Menopause Health Coach, not less. Review HealthFix and subscribe for more nutrition, sleep, relaxation support now.
You might be excited to know that you can prepare for a better night’s sleep while managing your stress throughout the day. These self-care tasks may also lessen the frequency and intensity of many menopause symptoms.
What you eat and drink during the day do affect your body and mind, even into sleep hours. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol consumption do contribute to the quality of sleep you get each night.
And hey, if you’re not willing to reduce or change the sugar, alcohol, or caffeine intake, there are other things you can do to improve sleep. They are:
Make your bed, darken the room, and designate that space as sleep-only premises. Can you also play with a “no-screens” policy in this space?
Take a few moments, a few times a day, to practice deep breathing: big inhale… pause.... complete exhale… pause. Again.
Do some stream-of-consciousness writing about what you need in order to get a good night’s sleep. Essentially, this is almost like a writing meditation. Ask yourself the question, then put pen to paper and see what comes forward. It might surprise you.
Start earlier in the day to think about sleep. Let it be a long, slow transition to help your body and mind get the message to prepare for rest.
Many women swear by a magnesium supplement before bed to not only aid sleep but help in joint pain that might be keeping you tossing and turning. Black cohosh might temper the hot flash flames and let you drift off or keep you from waking up sweaty and miserable.
Consider warm, calming teas like chamomile, or another favorite herbal blend.
Epsom salt baths with a few lavender drops can help calm the body and mind.
You may do some more journaling or drawing while listening to a story or watching a show. Try to slow your breath and enjoy the evening.
If your insomnia rises to the level of needing professional intervention, consider checking into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. Stay tuned for an article on what this is and how it might work for you, coming soon.
Is there a time of day you are willing to consider not looking at the latest news or social media? Or a window of time? How many times a day will you check in on the news or social media? Could you be checking in a little less often? Try it out and see how it feels, how it affects your thoughts, your heart rate, your breathing.
If wake in the night and your mind is racing, what are the 3 things you will do to nurture yourself to a calmer mind and a more relaxed body?
The key here is to find, and practice, what works for you personally.
That said, here are a few ideas to get you started in having a little list of possibilities:
Try to be gentle with yourself. Accept that you are awake though you’d rather be asleep. You are doing the best you can and panic or judgment won’t summon the sleep you want or need.
Your best is enough, so try to give yourself some grace (and slack). We’re in your corner and know you can get the sweet sleep you need for your mind and body. Here’s to your rest... and overall health!
What’s going on with your sleep quality and your stress levels in your body right now? Join the conversation on the Gennev Community Forums today.