How long has it been since you woke up well-rested, refreshed and ready to tackle your day? If that feeling is just a distant memory, you may be one of the many women who suffer from sleep problems and fatigue.
While stress and anxiety contribute to many a sleepless night, if you suffer from overwhelming fatigue the problem may be your adrenal levels, particularly the hormone cortisol. If your cortisol levels are too high at night and too low in the morning you can feel completely exhausted and have trouble functioning.
To get back in balance, your health care provider may suggest hormone therapy. Remember there are natural options and bioidentical hormones available. Your provider should individualize your therapy to meet your unique needs.
For some women, taking over-the-counter melatonin may help you break the cycle and get back into a regular sleep pattern. Natural progesterone can be another helpful solution.
You’ll also need to take an honest look at your lifestyle and make the changes necessary to reduce stress, get enough exercise, eat a healthy diet and make time to find joy in your life.
Solutions: What you can do to ease your symptoms
Here are some tips to help you fall asleep, stay asleep through the night, and wake up feeling rested.
- Set a routine bedtime and waking time so your body adjusts to the rhythm.
- Schedule enough time for sleep, 7-9 hours is truly needed!
- Avoid napping during the day, but if you absolutely must, limit naps to 30-45 minutes.
- Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Falling blood alcohol levels act as a stimulant.
- Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Limit exercise right before bed as it can interrupt your ability to fall asleep.
- Don’t eat heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime, as they can prevent you from staying asleep.
- Establish a soothing sleeping environment with comfortable bedding.
- Avoid flannel sheets; increase the cotton count of your sheets if you’re having hot flashes or night sweats.
- Wear moisture-wicking fabric pajamas to stay cool.
- Keep your bedroom cool, which is usually the most comfortable temperature for restful sleep.
- Use a ceiling fan, even in winter. You may also want to keep a small fan on your bedside table, so you can easily adjust the air circulation as needed.
- Block out all distracting noise and light.
- Avoid watching TV in bed as the stimulation of light and noise can interrupt sleep. If part of pre-sleep ritual, try to shut off before falling asleep with it on.
- Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, so your body associates the location with sleep.
- To help you set aside your worries, keep a pen and paper handy so you can jot down your thoughts if you wake during the night.
- Eat a small, healthy bedtime snack such as whole wheat toast or a small bowl of cereal to keep your blood sugar levels stable during the night.
- Take a warm bath and/or read before bedtime.
- Relaxing herbs like valerian, chamomile, and lemon balm can gently bring about the onset of sleep.
- Lavender aromatherapy produces a calming affect.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and consciously relaxing your fingers, toes, limbs and shoulders.
- Get into your favorite sleep position and focus on relaxing thoughts.
- Over-the-counter products to aid sleep, such as Melatonin, may help. It’s been shown to be most effective for people who work the night shift or take overnight flights, but is a relatively safe option for many.
- Your health care provider may prescribe a short term sleep aid to help you get break the insomnia cycle.
- Ask your health care provider if an over-the-counter or bioidentical progesterone is right for you.
Here are some additional things you can do during your waking hours, to help you get a good night’s sleep at day’s end.
- Eat a healthier diet, free of processed foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS),refined carbohydrates and sodium (salt). All can contribute to more imbalance symptoms.
- Practice portion control. Honor your cravings, but do so in moderation.
- Eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. The more colorful ones are packed with valuable nutrients. Dark green and leafy vegetablessuch as spinach, kale and collardshave been shown to help in memory recall and other mental functions.
- Choose organic whenever possible to avoid preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other substances that disrupt hormone balance.
- Whole foods are healthiest, so pick the orange instead of the orange juice. You will get more hormone rebalancing nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy.
- Limit your caffeine intake; drink less coffee and soda.
- Drink more pure water and green tea.
- Load up on berries that packed with anti-oxidantsblueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Fresh or frozen, they reduce oxidative stress which assaults the cells of the body. So, ‘berry up’ to reduce inflammation and improve your brain cell signaling.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats and choose olive oil and canola oil instead.
- Choose foods high in Vitamin C red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds. Great for skin protection, leading to fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness overall.
- Boost your omega-3sa beneficial fatty acid found in oily fishes, walnuts, canola and flaxseed oils.
- Spice up your diet with herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory propertiesturmeric (also known as curcumin), garlic, rosemary, and cayenne.
- Go for a walk, take the stairs and park farther away. Exercise gets your endorphins moving and helps alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.
- If you’re a smoker, seek the support you need to quit. On average, women who smoke experience menopause symptoms two years earlier than non-smokers. And smokers’ symptoms are often stronger and more troublesome.
- Chemical disruptors can also throw off your balance, so avoid perfumes and go fragrance-free.
- Make time to do the things you love, whether it’s relaxing with a good book or pursuing a favorite hobby.
- Get your life in order; getting rid of clutter can reduce your overall stress and help you manage midlife challenges.
- Reduce your stress with massage therapy, join a yoga class or meditate.
- Talk to a Chinese medical practitioner about herbal therapy.
- Ask about black cohosh, an herb that has helped some women with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. To learn more, see the Vitamins, supplements and herbs page.
- See your health care provider for a comprehensive exam and full assessment of your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
- Ask your provider to evaluate your hormone levels, thyroid and adrenals.
- If hormone therapy is recommended, consider bioidentical therapy which matches your body’s hormone structure.
- Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adrenal support vitamins. Increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12 can be very helpful. Health food stores and compounding pharmacies are also good places to look for adrenal support vitamins specially formulated for your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap products, invest in yourself.
- You are unique, so your provider should create an individualized plan for you detailing the type, timing and dosage of your therapy.