The following tips will help you sleep better even during menopause.
- Avoid foods that are spicy or acidic because these may trigger hot flashes. Try foods rich in soy because they might minimize hot flashes.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, especially before bedtime. These will make your hot flashes worse.
- Dress in lightweight clothes to improve sleep efficiency. Avoid heavy, insulating blankets, and consider using a fan or air-conditioner to cool the air and increase circulation. If your spouse is shivering, have a small, portable heater next to his side of the bed.
- Reduce stress and worry as much as possible. Try relaxation techniques, massage, and exercise. Talk to a behavioral health professional if you are depressed, anxious, or having problems.
- It is vital that you follow sleep hygiene and insomnia instructions discussed in an earlier blog.
- Try consolidating your sleep by going to bed thirty minutes later than your usual bedtime. As we age, we spend more time in bed, but we sleep less.
During the transition phase leading to menopause, over several years, a woman’s ovaries gradually decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. One year after menstrual periods have stopped, a woman reaches menopause, usually around the age of fifty. Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical, and psychological change. Natural changes in sleep also occur, characterized by longer time to sleep onset, frequent awakenings, decreased amount of deep sleep, and poor sleep architecture. From perimenopause to post menopause, women report hot flashes, mood disorders, insomnia, and sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep problems are often accompanied by depression and anxiety, which make insomnia worse. This is the reason post-menopausal women are not satisfied with their sleep. As many as 61 percent report insomnia symptoms. Snoring and sleep apnea have also been found to be more common and more severe in post-menopausal women as their upper airway dilator muscles become flabby with aging.
Changing and decreasing levels of estrogen cause many menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, which are unexpected feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating. They usually begin around the face and spread to the chest, affecting 75 to 85 percent of women around menopause. On average, hot flashes last three minutes and lead to reduced sleep efficiency. Most women experience these for one year, but about 25 percent have hot flashes for five years. Hot flashes interrupt sleep and reduce the amount of deep sleep, leading to suboptimal alertness and suboptimal leadership the following day.
Talk to your doctor about estrogen (estrogen replacement therapy or ERT) or estrogen and progesterone (hormone replacement therapy or HRT), nutritional products, and medications such as calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones). Also, talk about estrogen creams and rings for vaginal dryness. Also, discuss alternative treatment for menopausal symptoms such as soy products (tofu, soybeans, and soy milk). They contain phytoestrogen, a plant hormone similar to estrogen. Soy products may lessen hot flashes. Phytoestrogens is also available in over-the-counter nutritional supplements (ginseng, extract of red clover, or black cohosh). The FDA does not regulate these supplements. Their proper doses, safety, and long-term effects and risks are not yet known.
Typically, a leader’s career spans five to six decades. And toward the later part of your career, because of your vast experience, lifelong network of experts, and wisdom that comes only with age, you are worth more than you ever were. This makes it imperative that you take good care of your sleep so that you can continue to contribute to the welfare of the human race.
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Sleep Well, Lead Well.