It’s Official, Lack of Sleep at Midlife is Bad for Your Health

By on October 17, 2017

Many of the women I talk to tell me that lack of sleep is one of the biggest side effects of the menopause, but having had children, they feel they are used to it and accept it as part of life. But now there’s a reason to be more wary of midlife insomnia because lack of good quality of sleep can triple the risk for a heart attack

Yes, that’s right… not sleeping enough can actually lead to very serious health problems.

A recent study by The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), found that over 56% of perimenopausal women are getting less than seven hours a day of sleep a night, and are at high risk of a heart attack. What’s more, the changes in hormone levels during menopause is a double threat to our hearts, because menopause increases the amount of plaque build-up in the arteries, increasing blood pressure and the risk of a stroke.

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Sleepless nights are something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives, and sleep problems, including snoring, sleep apnoea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, and restless legs syndrome, affect millions of people in the UK. Now, insomnia linked to menopause is thought to be life-threatening.

Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women, and insomnia caused by hot flushes can leave many women tossing and turning or waking up drenched in a pool of sweat. Surviving on as little as two hours of sleep a night can have a profound impact on anyone’s mood, irritability, and anxiousness, causing fatigue and trouble concentrating.

On average, most menopause symptoms last around four years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years…even one sleepless night can be frustrating and exhausting for most, let alone 12 torturous years of night sweats and insomnia. Those are a lot of years of not sleeping, not falling asleep, not sleeping through the night and not waking up feeling rested.

I’ve always known lying in bed awake night after night can have a serious impact on our everyday health because no one is at their best when they’re exhausted. In the past, women have had to learn to cope with insomnia and adjust their lives around it until their hormones settle down, but why should we just sit around and wait to have a heart attack… or worse…

When my patients come to me with issues of sleepless nights, I tell them that they don’t just have to deal with it. There are many things we can actively do during menopause, so when menopause is playing havoc with your sleep, try incorporating these lifestyle changes and smart sleep strategies into your daily routine to rest easy again.  

  • Adopt regular sleep patterns

Try and go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. It’s harder than it sounds when daily routines vary from one day to the next, especially at weekends, but our bodies follow a circadian rhythm which relies on consistencies. This consistency should put a stop to sluggishness and fatigue.

  • Avoid caffeine and exercise in the evenings

Caffeine is obviously a stimulant, which is why we drink it to wake us up in the morning. It takes around 15 minutes to kick in, but several hours to be eliminated and blocks sleep-inducing chemicals and increases adrenaline production. Similarly, with exercise, you may feel physically tired, but mentally, you’re awake.

  • Avoid smartphones at night because the lighting wakes you up

The blue and white light given off from our electronic devices prevents our brains from releasing the hormone, melatonin, which tells our bodies that it’s night time. Your mind will stay alert which prevents you from falling asleep.

  • Avoid large amounts of food or fluid late at night

If you drink too much before bed, you might wake up several times to go to the toilet. Also, eating a heavy meal followed by little or no activity means our bodies don’t digest the food as easily, especially when food is best digested in an upright position.

  • Don’t take naps

Long naps can leave you feeling groggy and interfere with your body clock when it comes to trying to sleep at night.

  • Take a hot shower or bath before bed

This will adjust your body temperature and when coupled with cool temperature in your bedroom, the change tells the body to relax and feel sleepy.

Maryon Stewart is a renowned healthcare expert specializing in PMS, Menopause and a pioneer in the field of non-drug medicine. Using her years of knowledge and expertise, she coaches women in understanding the information, tools, and techniques needed to get well, to the point that they are able to be completely symptom-free.

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It’s Official, Lack of Sleep at Midlife is Bad for Your Health