It is the Holy Grail for midlife: restorative, refreshing, rejuvenating, elusive, mystical, and talked about with reverence and desire.
We all want it. We crave it. We know sleep’s power to make our lives significantly better, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But getting it is surprisingly difficult.
But midlife is a terrible time for sleep, for many of us. Not only do hormonal changes conspire to keep us awake with menopause night sweats, debilitating anxiety, restless leg syndrome, itching all over your body, flaring cortisol, and insomnia, but our lives have us on high alert, worrying about teenage kids, elderly parents, looming retirement, work responsibilities, and our own health.
We all know sleep is critical for our health. Without getting proper sleep, our brains start to lose function, we’re more vulnerable to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and stroke. Poor sleep could actually be a contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.
And yet, in midlife and menopause, sleep can be increasingly difficult to get.
There are two main reasons we hear from our community of women that they’re not sleeping well: night sweats and anxiety.
We want you to get the rest you need and want, so we’d like to introduce you to a couple of innovations that are tackling those precise issues and helping women sleep.*
A hot flash (or its nocturnal sibling, the night sweat) is the brain telling the body (incorrectly, usually) that it’s overheating and needs to dump some heat immediately. Blood rushes to the skin – usually the chest, neck and face – to cool, ironically making you feel overheated indeed. There are some clever ways to treat them like hrt patches for hot flashes, but they relentlessly plague the average menopausal woman.
If you are sick of hot flashes and would like to give HRT a try, a Gennev menopause-certified gynecologist can give you a trusted opinion, determine if medication is right for you, and they can provide prescription support. Book an appointment with a doctor here.
These can last from a few seconds to up to 20 minutes, often bathing the sufferer in sweat.
Because this tactic is actually pretty effective at cooling, after the heat passes, chill can set in, and voilà! You get to be uncomfortable for a little longer in the other direction.
Disruptive and unpleasant during the day, hot flashes can be even worse at night. They’re often bad enough to wake a woman from sleep and even require a change of pajamas or bedding to get comfortable again. Until the next one strikes.
The innovative Embr Wave device is helping a lot of women have better nights (read our Embr Wave review). The Embr Wave is a bracelet women wear that allows them to control a sensation of heat or coolness on the temperature-sensitive skin of the wrist.
It works because the thermoreceptors in the wrist send powerful signals to the brain. Think about when your feet are cold: maybe the rest of your body is warm, but the discomfort of your feet probably overrides all the other sensations, making you feel cold all over. The Embr Wave does much the same, only it uses its power for good, signaling to your brain that you’re comfortably warm or comfortably cool.
Many women report that triggering the cooling function of the Embr Wave as soon as they feel a hot flash coming on can actually stop the flash in its tracks.
At night, women are able to stop the night sweats early in the flare up, so the consequences (sweaty PJs and sheets) are reduced, and sleep is much less interrupted. Additionally, once the hot flash is over, women are much more able to avoid the trailing chill by hitting the warming button on their Embr Wave.
And for those who find dropping off to sleep is difficult in the first place, the Embr Wave has a Fall Asleep Mode, where the pulsing waves of the device mimic the slow breathing of sleep.
The relief and feeling of control women get by having the Embr Wave is also helpful, lessening the stress, anger, and frustration many women feel. And the lowered stress may well help prevent the next hot flash from happening.
Maybe you’re able to fall asleep, but you wake in the middle of the night, and wham! Anxiety kicks in and kicks up a fuss, reminding you of every failure, blowing minor worries into major disasters, head-butting your self-confidence, and making falling back to sleep feel like an impossibility.
Anxiety is one of the worst symptoms of perimenopause and menopause for many women, yet plenty of us don’t even realize that the appearance or ramping up of this wholly unwelcome emotion can be due to hormones.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant ways to alleviate anxiety, especially at night, is with a weighted blanket for menopause insomnia.
Science isn’t entirely sure what makes weighted blankets effective, but certainly many folks swear by them for anxiety disorders and poor sleep. The extra weight wraps around the sleeper like a hug, triggering many of the same calming and soothing mechanisms. Users report falling asleep faster and staying asleep better.
“More blanket AND hot flashes? No, thank you!” we hear you shout. And you’re right. But what if the blanket were cooling and weighted, to counteract two of women’s greatest midlife sleep challenges?
Gennev CEO Jill Angelo tried out the Iced blanket from Hush, and here’s what she had to say:
“The Iced Hush blanket is the perfect weight – feels cozy. It’s really cool: I didn’t suffer from the typical night sweat that’s the usual for me on a nightly basis. It breathes well…and I like that it has a external liner that I can unzip and wash separately when needed.” Her only complaint was that it wasn’t big enough – easily remedied by ordering the next size up.
I talked to Hush co-founder Lior Ohayon about his miracle blanket. Here's what we learned about the science behind this innovation:
What inspired you to create your line of weighted blankets?
Lior: A few years ago I worked at a summer camp for special needs children. In it, they had a Stimulation Room with all sorts of devices for the campers. One of the weighted devices caught my attention and felt amazing to be under. However, it was small, ugly, and pretty expensive. That's when I decided I need to bring this to the masses and partnered with Aaron [Spivak] to design the Hush Blanket.
Cooling and weighted are not two terms that comfortably go together. What’s the science/magic behind yours?
Lior: Without giving too much away, it all rests in the blend of fabrics in the Hush Iced cover. Put simply, some fabrics can heat up to higher temperatures naturally and retain heat for longer. Hush Iced has a low latent heat and is also very breathable, being made from bamboo and cotton.
Why are they particularly good for women dealing with perimenopause and menopause symptoms? Lior: We know that menopause symptoms include hot flashes, chills, night sweats, sleep problems, and mood changes. Not only can a weighted blanket get your sleep back on track by increasing your melatonin (sleep hormone) production, it also increases your serotonin (happiness hormone) while lowering your stress-inducing cortisol hormone. Our customers are 65% women going through menopause, so we had to quickly adapt with the Hush Iced in order for them to benefit without getting hot.
Why do weighted blankets work to relieve anxiety?
Lior: The Hush mimics a loving hug around your body, which releases all sorts of positive hormones and makes us feel secure. They are scientifically proven to help users relax and lower anxiety because of this Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation effect from the weight.
Does it feel constricting?
Lior: Some people don't enjoy the sensation of being under something heavy because they are used to sleeping with such light sheets. We encourage them to try it for 3-4 nights and many report that they end up loving it. If not, they can always exchange it for free for a lighter Hush blanket.
How do you weight it?
Lior: The inner weighted blanket has pockets which are filled with non-toxic glass sand. The pockets reduce the movement of weight around the blanket and evenly distributes it.
What material(s) do you use, and can I easily wash it?
Lior: The Hush Iced is made from a patent-pending blend of bamboo and cotton with a bit of spandex. It can be thrown in the wash easily, but we recommend hang-drying for best results. The inner weighted blanket is probably best spot-cleaned to avoid damage to your washing machine!
Whatever is keeping you awake at night, it’s worth it to your health and well-being to find a solution. Whether that’s HRT (hormone replacement therapy), or a wearable device, or a chilling blanket or cooling menopause clothing, or some combination thereof, there are answers to help you get through the challenging transitional period of perimenopause and menopause.
Have you tried any of the above? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Embr or Hush or any other solution that’s helping you get through the night. Please jleave us a note on the Gennev Facebook page, or join our community in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.