You heard about the hot flashes and the mood swings, but no one told you that perimenopause was going to rob you of sleep. If that is you, I have been there–still there, really–but over the past year and a half I have found ways to fight back and get more sleep despite it being one of my major perimenopause symptoms.
How To Fight Back When Perimenopause Robs You Of Sleep
First of all, I want you to know I am not a physician and because of that, I cannot give medical advice. What I am sharing with you today is what has worked for me–it may or may not work for you. You need to check with your doctor before you make any significant changes like changing your supplements. Insomnia can be a symptom of many different problems. You need to visit your doctor to make sure yours is caused by perimenopause and not some other underlying problem.
With those precautions out of the way, let me share with you my perimenopause insomnia story. Right around Christmas 2017, my body started developing this annoying habit of letting me easily drift off to sleep only to awaken two hours later. It would then take me several hours to convince my body that it needed to go back to sleep again. We are not talking a night or two; we are talking every single night I was struggling with this.
Dozens of middle of the night Netflix binges later, I started developing anxiety. At first it was mild and it only seemed to come a few days before my period and then a few days after it finished. That May after months of rarely a full night’s sleep, I had my first full-blown panic attack–I thought I was going insane.
When it happened I was in no danger, under minimal stress. I was relaxing and having a good time. Why would I experience panic out of nowhere when I was not feeling fearful? And then it happened again a few weeks later, and again a few weeks after that. My doctor ran some tests and asked a lot of questions.
The diagnosis: I had entered perimenopause, and the anxiety was triggered by the hormone fluctuations caused by this time of life. The doctor also told me the sleep disruptions were caused by perimenopause, and the lack of good sleep was probably worsening my feelings of anxiety.
There began my dilemma; I needed to sleep to reduce my anxiety, yet my hormones were trying to decrease my sleep, which only heightened the anxiety they were also creating. My solution–a low dose of anti-anxiety medication and a renewed dedication to studying and practicing better sleep hygiene.
I tried a tonne of different things from the strange suggestion of eating a tablespoon of fat and honey with a dash of salt before bed each night (didn’t work and was hard to get down) to the extreme diet changes, including cutting out all caffeine and reducing sugar intake (I tried this for over a month and saw no results).
Below I’m sharing what did work for me. These tips have not 100 percent cured me of my perimenopausal insomnia, but I see vast improvements in my sleep quality. I rarely wake up for hours on end in the middle of the night. Instead, when I wake up, I can get back to sleep in under an hour–sometimes in less than 30 minutes.
That might not seem like a big deal to you, but it is a massive deal to me! I am no longer living my days in a sleep fog.
Perimenopause Insomnia Solutions That Worked For Me
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1. I Was Already Doing The Usual
When I first started studying how to fall asleep and stay asleep, I kept finding articles that listed solutions that I thought were pretty basic and well known. However, perhaps I knew and practiced them already because I have had trouble sleeping deeply most of my life. If you have slept well all the way up to perimenopause, you might not be as sleep health educated as I am.
Basic Good Sleep Hygiene Rules
- No caffeine after lunch
- Got to bed and get up each day at around the same time
- Get at least 30 minutes of cardio each day
- Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and free of clutter
- Follow a routine before bed that helps you unwind
- Stay off screens during the last 90 minutes of your day
The only one of these rules I was regularly breaking was the last one, but I figured out how to fix that–more on how later in this post.
2. Magnesium Lotion For Leg Cramps And Leg Restlessness
Out of all the things that have helped on this list, this one has been the most influential in keeping me from being up for hours. One PMS symptom I have had most of my adult life is leg cramps. Oh, my uterus cramps too, but my upper thighs ache something horrible around that time of the month and the ache often keeps me awake.
When I started taking anti-anxiety drugs, I started getting leg cramps every night. As I love to research, I started looking up natural ways to nip this pain in the bud. I kept reading about people having success with magnesium lotion, and so I went on Amazon and ordered the most potent magnesium cream I could find–and it worked.
Every night when I climb into bed, I now rub my legs down with this magnesium cream and I think I will continue doing so for the rest of my life.
I saw a reduction in leg cramps and restlessness the first night, and within a week or two, my nightly episodes with leg pain were reduced by 90 percent. I went from waking up every night with leg pain and restlessness to waking up perhaps once or twice a month with it. Those odd times I do wake up with leg pain, I rub more lotion on and usually within 15 minutes or so the pain starts to reside.
Even if you don’t suffer from restless legs, you may benefit from magnesium cream as most articles I read about the benefits of it said that it also helped people fall and stay asleep. A word of warning though, don’t apply it to areas where you have a scratch or open wound as it will sting.
3. I Started Wearing Glasses Even Though I Have 20/20 Vision
Since my teenage years I have always looked forward to my hour of television before bed. I have never been one to watch TV any other time of the day, with rare exceptions. I also don’t have a TV in my bedroom.
However, I was reading over and over again that blue light emitted from TV screens can (for some people) inhibit the release of melatonin that helps individuals fall asleep and stay asleep. Not wanting to give up my life long habit, I researched other solutions than giving up nightly TV watching and found out about blue-blocking glasses.
I bought a pair and started using them not just for that hour of TV watching before bed, but for working on my laptop after dinner. Almost immediately I started noticing that when I woke up in the middle of the night, it became easier to fall back to sleep.
4. I Gave Up Reading On My Kindle Before Bed
Shortly after I purchased my blue blockers, I started thinking if blue light does bother me, then is the light from my kindle also keeping me awake?
I could not find any evidence online of the light from Kindle Paperwhites messing with sleep patterns, but I switched from reading on my Kindle to reading a real, hold in your hand and turn the pages with your fingers book and again noticed a reduction in the time I am up each night. Yes, I could put my blue blockers on and read from my Kindle, but changing to paperback books was just as easy for me.
5. I Use An Inexpensive Version Of A Weighted Blanket
While studying up on sleep aids, I found a lot of bloggers writing about how a weighted blanket fixed all their sleeping problems. However, unlike the other sleep solutions I had tried, properly jumping on the weighted blanket train is not cheap. Yes, there are great deals on them, but those are usually for lap blankets and not for one big enough for a bed. A queen-sized 15 lb Anxiety blanket is a hefty investment when you don’t know if you will like it.
Instead, I pulled a heavy yard sale crochet blanket out of our spare blanket pile and started using it on top of a flannel sheet, which is heavier than a cotton sheet. This combination does work. I can’t explain why the heavy blanket and sheet combination works except to say it seems to help keep my body still.
6. I Abandoned My Husband
If you want to torture a person with insomnia, lock them in a room with only one bed and in that bed, place a person who falls asleep within minutes of their head hitting the pillow and then starts to snore. That person is my husband.
However, we don’t have a spare room that I can go and retreat to. I did try and sleep in our family room, but our house of five has people on different schedules, so I would get to sleep only to be awakened by someone coming home late or leaving for work early.
The solution to this sounds strange, but it worked. I placed a super narrow cot (about the same width as an outdoor lounge chair), with a slim tri-fold mattress on top at the end of our bed in the master bedroom. Oddly the narrow width of it helped me settle down quicker as I cannot be restless or I will fall off the bed.
I then used headphones to listen to something more relaxing than my husband’s snoring. I slept in this bed almost every night for over a year until I discovered the magnesium lotion. Shortly after that I began to be able to wake up and then roll over and go back to sleep…most nights that is.
You might wonder, why not just plug earphones in and listen to music in my own bed next to my hubby? He has a weird snore where he puffs out air; it is like having someone breathing on your neck the whole night. I don’t notice it when I am deep in sleep, but I sure do when I am awake and trying to drift back to sleep.
7. I Gradually Weaned Myself Off This
Back before waking and staying up in the middle of the night became a regular thing for me, I would experience middle of the night wakings one or two nights a month around the time of my period. I used to enjoy a Netflix marathon while resting on the couch and not get too stressed out about it.
However, when perimenopause started making the middle of the night waking a daily norm for me, I knew my Netflix habit was keeping me up longer than I needed to be. I knew if I gave it up, chances were I would fall back to sleep faster.
I started by downloading Netflix to an iPad and placing it in a lap desk on a chair beside my mini bed with a pair of comfortable earbuds. When I woke up, I crawled in my little bed at the foot of our big bed and popped my earbuds in and started watching a soothing documentary that contained lots of wave sounds, and I did notice that I started falling back to sleep quicker –usually within an hour or two.
I knew, however, that the bright light from the screen wasn’t good for sleep, so I switched to music. I tried several types until I finally stumbled on a kind that works.
8. This Music Works
I tried ocean wave music; I tried classical music; I tried music with soothing lyrics–none of it worked for me. Then one night, only YouTube was working on my iPad for some reason. I punched “Sleep Music” into the search bar on Youtube and found a live sleep station. There are several and they all seem to play similar music. It does, of course, use the screen to play, but I turn my iPad around so that the light doesn’t affect my sleep.
If you are wondering why I use an iPad and not my iPhone, it is because I don’t want to be disturbed by any notifications that might come in during the night. My iPad has just a few apps on it and all notifications are off.
9. White Noise
I try to resort to music only when I have been up for 15 minutes or more and my body is showing no signs of letting me get back to sleep anytime soon. Most nights lately, a steady producer of white noise is enough to help me get to sleep and get back to sleep. I use a small clip-on fan for this (similar to this model), which I pull closer should I awaken in a night sweat (another perimenopause sleep issue).
10. On Anxious Nights I Turn This On And Do These
Sometimes I awaken with my heart racing and breathing rapidly. Apparently, this is night time anxiety and is common for those who deal with hormonal anxiety. When this happens, I find turning on my essential oil diffuser filled with 15 to 20 drops of Lavender essential oil helps relax me. I also find that doing the child’s pose followed by the cow and cat stretch helps. These are all yoga poses. I do them over and over, holding them 30 seconds or so until the panic subsides. While I do them, I concentrate on deep breaths in and out. Usually, within a few minutes, my panic subsides, and I can lay down and listen to music until I drift off.
11. A Good Attitude
For months and months after I stopped sleeping all night regularly, I had what I would call a “sleep at any cost” attitude. I let the pursuit of sleep take over my life. I slept whenever I could, even at the cost of activities that I loved, such as early morning yoga classes, and it only made things worse. I woke up with a crappy attitude, thinking, “man, I slept horribly; this day is going to suck.”
Once I decided to put sleep in its rightful spot, giving it a set time frame of hours to be pursued, and I woke up repeating over and over, “I got what sleep I could and now I am going to give this day my best,” things did get better.
Simply put, I don’t let the pursuit of sleep rule my life anymore, nor do I allow lack of sleep control me. I get to choose my attitude, not the amount of sleep I get.
Why You Don’t See Supplements On This List
I have been experimenting with vitamins, minerals, and herbs for better sleep and hormone function, but I don’t feel as if any particular one of them has helped me sleep more.
I also believe that supplements are a very personal thing. Our bodies all function a bit differently. What supplements help me could interact poorly with something you are already taking. So I would rather leave supplement recommendations to those with degrees in it.
I hope something on my list helps you kick perimenopausal sleep problems to the curb!
3 More Posts To Help You Improve Your Health
How you spend your evenings can make mornings so much easier regardless of if you slept soundly or not. Learn how to best spend your evenings with this inexpensive and easy to implement course–Make Over Your Evenings. Go here to find out all the details.
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