Lying awake at night, too many lists in your head? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Are you wide awake in the early hours of the morning? Do you wake up in the morning as if you’ve run a marathon?

If the answer is yes to any of these, then welcome to the world of insomnia. Lack of sleep or poor sleep affects your health in many ways, from tiredness to irritability and moodiness. Poor concentration, can’t remember where you put your keys? Feeling hungry and gaining weight. You can blame them all on not getting enough time between the sheets. If that wasn’t daunting enough insomnia increases overall mortality and ages you faster.

So are you getting enough? The recommendations are 7-8 hours of deep, solid sleep each night. Who’s getting enough? Studies show 25% of women get less than 7 hours of sleep a night. That means at the end of your week you’ve missed out on a whole nights worth of sleep. So is it any wonder that most of us are sleep deprived.

So what’s causing this lack of sleep? Conditions such as depression, pain, menopausal night sweats, and restless legs can all contribute to insomnia. Eating meals late at night, alcohol, and caffeine consumption interfere with sleep. Stress contributes to insomnia, high cortisol levels have been found in people with sleep disturbances. Many of us are just trying to fit more and more into the day and don’t make time for sleep! The availability of phones, light, and internet 24/7 has severely cut down on our sleep time.

One of the first symptoms of peri-menopause in the women I see is sleep disturbances.

So what can you do about it?

First, let’s look at good sleep hygiene. Most of us don’t think about letting our bodies know we want to sleep. Just laying in bed does not induce sleep no matter how many sheep we count. We need to have a routine, a regular sleep – wake schedule. Prepare for sleep by winding down, drinking herbal teas like chamomile or Holy Basil.

  • Write in a journal to release your thoughts.
  • Remove TVs and other electronic devices in the bedroom. Yes, that means your cell phone, too.
  • Take a warm bath before bed with Epsom salts and lavender.
  • Sleeping in a cool dark room without any light is essential to make melatonin a hormone needed for sleep.
  • Don’t consume alcohol near bedtime. Alcohol may knock you out and help you fall asleep, but then causes fragmented poor sleep and night sweats.
  • Caffeine is a stimulant; restrict caffeine use after mid day. Keep all fluids to a minimum after 6pm if you waken to pee during the night.
  • Natural remedies for sleep are available and safe for most people to help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. They do not cause sedation as medications may do, or a hangover effect.
  • Melatonin is a favourite of mine. As we age, our melatonin levels go down. It is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. A small dose from 0.5mg-3mg is all that is necessary for most people, taken 30mins to an hour before bed. Take at the same time each night to regulate your internal clock, and make sure you are in the dark. Light switches off melatonin production.
  • Magnesium is an easy staple, and most women are deficient in magnesium in their diets. It is a natural muscle relaxant and helps with sleep. Take 100-300mg at bedtime. I find that magnesium glycinate or powdered magnesium citrate in a warm drink works best.
  • 5-HTP (5-hydroxy L tryptophan) helps with serotonin production and helps with sleep quality, depression, and pain. Do not take prescription, anti depressants, or pain relievers without discussing with a health care practitioner.
  • Other herbs such as Valerian, Lemon Balm, Passion flower, magnolia, l-theanine, and hops extract are all useful in helping with sleep and anxiety, and can be used individually or in combination with each other.
  • Relaxation and hypnosis apps and delta wave sleep recordings can also be helpful to fall asleep and can be replayed during the night.

So, now you know how important sleep is- go off and catch some zzz’s.

Irene is a National Certified Menopause Practitioner; Nutrition, Natural Medicine & Anti-Aging Specialist; and a Professional Compounding Pharmacist. She graduated from the University Of London School Of Pharmacy and immigrated to Canada in 1986. She has worked in women’s health for over 20 years and has built her women’s practice through consulting at DayNight, Rexall, Stonechurch and Postmaster Pharmacies. Through her consulting, Irene offers drug reviews, weight management, nutritional and natural medicine advice and post and peri-menopausal recommendations. For more information visit her website: www.irenehogan.com.