Making Menopause Easier: How 3 Women Averted Midlife Sleep Crises
Good-bye, kitty: Insomnia led Kristin to boot the cat out of the bedroom.(KRISTIN GABRIEL)Nearly half of menopausal women experience sleep disturbances every night; in fact, it was the greatest concern among menopausal symptoms in a 2006 survey by the Red Hot Mamas organization—beating out hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.
These disturbances can begin at the earliest stages of perimenopause and continue for several years through postmenopause. For very severe symptoms, you may consider hormone replacement therapy for relief—but many women can also find relief from small lifestyle and environmental changes.
Menopause inspires an entire bedroom makeover
From 2000 to 2006, as Kristin Gabriel's body progressed through menopause, she slept no more than six hours per night. "I was a member of the 2 to 4 a.m. club. I had trouble sleeping during those hours, so I read books until I drifted off again," says the marketing consultant from Los Angeles.
About a year ago Gabriel began studying sleep hygiene and was inspired to change her daily routine, in hopes of getting more shut-eye. She removed the television from her bedroom, started shutting her door at night to prevent her cat from wandering into her room, and hired a feng shui consultant. Eager for results, she replaced her 15-year-old mattress, hung thicker blinds on the windows, and repainted her room with calming hues—all for under $1,000.
More ways to sleep better
The renovation, along with some complementary lifestyle changes, has worked wonders. Though she still experiences hot flashes, she's now able to sleep soundly all night. "I usually sleep at least eight hours, straight through," she says. "It's fantastic."
Next Page: Preventing night sweats [ pagebreak ]Cooler temperatures and comfy pj's help prevent night sweats
Debbie Beal, 50, a registered nurse living in Trout Creek, Mont., keeps the thermostat set below 60°F at night. Hot flashes used to wake her several times per night, but that changed once she started wearing lightweight pajamas made of special wicking material.
Debbie wears wicking pajamas to control hot flashes.(DEBBIE BEAL)"The material wicks away the moisture while I sleep," she says. "I don't wake up hot and cold from being sweaty, having to constantly pull the blankets on and off." Several brands of wicking sleepwear are sold in a variety of styles and materials.
Changing daytime habits can help lessen nighttime symptoms
As a registered sleep technician, Lauren Butler, 52, teaches sleep strategies to an insomnia support group. But when perimenopause hit, she suddenly found herself lying awake at night, powerless before her fluctuating hormones.
"I had too much energy to lie there calmly without looking at the clock. I didn't want to do deep breathing or guided imagery or any of the meditation exercises I tell my patients to do," says Butler, of Sebastian, Fla.
Lauren cut caffeine and boosted exercise to battle her problem.(LAUREN BUTLER)To prepare her mind and body for bed, Butler knew she had to make some daytime adjustments: She started walking at least a mile every evening and limiting her caffeine intake after lunch.
"When I was younger, I could drink coffee at 5 p.m. and not notice a difference at bedtime," she says. "But as I've gotten older, things have changed; I'm much more sensitive now."
The behavior modifications helped Butler feel sleep better through the night. As her body adjusted to menopause, her insomnia gradually disappeared.