Here is a list of the sleep disorders of which I am aware. There are probably more!
• Sleep Apnea
• Sleep Terrors
If you suffer from more than just the occasional night of insomnia you may find the following helpful. Before you try very
many of the remedies listed below, please ask your doctor if any medication you are taking might be effecting your sleep.
These are some of the types of medications that may effect your sleep:
Sometimes sleep disruptions are purely menopause related; sometimes they are not. Here are some of the things
that ARE and what you can do to deal with them:
Reduced hormone progesterone production: Progesterone is the female hormone that helps to promote
sleep, among other functions. Sometime using a BCP or prescribed progesterone cream to level out your supply of
progesterone can help.
Hot flashes/night sweats: These can be controled using BCPs, HRT, or a few of the other things we have
listed on our 'Natural remedies' page.
Mood disorders: We all know that if we are terribly upset about something we do not sleep well. Mood
swings can be brought on by peri-menopause. If this is true for you please check out the 'Natural remedies' page for some
hints on vitamins and supplements that can help with this too.
Now on to the non-menopausal related disruptions!
Experts recommend that you try to ‘set the stage’ for sleep so you can help get your mind and body into "sleep
Prepare for sleep:
Establish a bed-time ritual. Let your body know that it’s time to sleep by doing the
same activities each night. Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before you go to bed, such as reading a book, listening
to music, or taking a bath. You can also keep your biological clock steady by going to bed and waking at the same time every
day (including weekends and holidays).
Maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom. Make
sure you have all the conditions you need for sleep - that it’s quiet, dark, cool, comfortable, and free of interruptions.
adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture
outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
your body. To reduce muscular tension, try techniques such as meditation, progressive relaxation, or
even taking a warm bath.
Stop worrying. Avoid solving your problems from your bed. Before
going to bed, make a list of problems and list some "steps" for the following day.
Try a high-carb snack.
A light snack that is high in carbohydrates, such as a plain bagel, might help you relax.
heavy, spicy, or high-sugar foods.
Sleep assisters - some are indeed ‘Strange’ but sometimes helpful....
Food & Drink:
• Drink warm milk at bedtime.
• Eat a high-carb snack just before
• Eat a protein snack just before bedtime.
• Eat something made with pumpkin before bedtime.
• Vinegar: Add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of honey to a glass of boiling hot water. Drink.
• Hot citrus drink made with water and honey. (Lemon juice or orange juice or grapefruit juice)
something with the natural amino acid L-tryptophan in it**
• Try a banana milkshake (a banana and about a half a
cup of milk put through the blender ‘til it's frothy). You can also add a few spoonfuls of your favorite fruit yogurt
to this. It's a truly delicious and refreshing way to ingest L-tryptophan and the necessary sugars to help you get to sleep.
** milk, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, turkey meat, poultry, eggs, tuna, bananas, figs, nuts, almonds, dates and soybeans
are all ideal sources of tryptophan. Also some fruits and vegetables, such as green peas, spinach, lima beans, peanuts and
peanut butter. Adding honey or other carbohydrates, like pasta or bread, facilitates the use of the natural tryptophan.
Passion Flower Incense
Use a small herbal
sleep "pillow" - filled with lavender, rose petals and catnip.
Herbs & Supplements:
Valerian -- This product becomes more effective over time,
so taking it nightly works best, rather than taking valerian only on random rough nights.
the trick is to make sure you are brewing it properly. Use two or three teabags. Then put a lid on the pot to keep oils in
the water -- so you get the medicinal effects of the tea. (Be aware that this may increase the risk of bleeding so people
on blood thinners should exercise caution; and it may also increase blood pressure)
If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, use the 'extended release' formula before you go to bed. If you have trouble
falling asleep, try 'immediate release' formula. (However, there have been concerns about risks of bleeding especially
in people taking blood-thinners like warfarin.)
Vitamin B6. It aids in the absorption of L-tryptophan. But
it should be taken earlier in the day as it can cause insomnia if taken later in the day.
L-Tryptophan (5HTP) from
Health food stores -- The body uses this to form 5-HTP, which is used to form Serotonin which makes N-Acetyl-serotonin
which produces Melatonin!!
Kava -- Best used for stress related insomnia - but only for people not using alcohol
or medicines metabolized in the liver, including many cholesterol medicines.
Magnesium -- Calcium and
magnesium combined produce a calming effects on the brain. They are essential for normal sleep. Calcium and magnesium taken
45 minutes before bedtime have a tranquilizing effect.
These have also been mentioned as possible helps:
American scullcap (as a tea) (commonly combined with valerian)
Bitter orange (as a tea)
Catnip (as a tea)
Hops (as a tea)
Lavender (as a tea)
balm (as a tea or 160 - 200 mg 30 minutes to one hour before bed)
Passion flower (as a tea)
Now for the "other" sleep aids....
Sound - music(preferably played with a timed turn-off), do not use songs that you know words too, you'll
be tempted to try to sing along!
Reduce light - sleep in a room as dark as possible.
bedroom with fresh air - (we know the fresh air can be a problem in the wintertime) and a room temperature between
60-65 degrees will give you the best sleeping conditions.
Keep regular bedtime hours - select a bedtime
and wake time and stick with them.
Take a Warm Bath - The key word is ‘warm’ not ‘hot’.
Too long in hot water and your body is drained of vitality. Use bath salts, or throw in Epsom salts and baking soda - one
cup of each. These will help you relax and also help rid your body of toxins.
Get a massage - at least
a back rub if you have a significant other who will do it for you.
Sleep on Your Back - Supposedly this
is the best position for relaxing. It allows all your internal organs to rest properly. If you ‘must’ sleep on
your side, do it on your right side, not your left. Sleeping on the left side causes your lungs, stomach and liver to press
against your heart, causing stress on an organ that most of us find quite useful. Never sleep on your stomach.
You Can't Sleep, Get Up - Do not lie awake trying to get back to sleep any more than 30 minutes. Get up, do something
quiet and non-stimulating. When you feel tired again, go back to bed.
Don't Sleep In - Get up at the
same time every day, even on weekends and holidays. Once you have awakened, get up!
Keep Your Bed a Place for
Sleep - Do not work, read, watch TV, work crossword puzzles, or any other ‘busy’ activity in your bed.
Let your mind and body identify bed with sleeping only. (Well, maybe one other activity!!)
- Yes they are tempting; but if you are having trouble sleeping at night skip the naps. You should be more tired at bedtime
and better able to fall asleep. If you "must" nap, limit your nap time to 20 minutes. You need to stay mentally alert
and active throughout your day.
Avoid Illuminated Bedroom Clocks - They provide just one more source of
aggravation to an already aggravated mind!
Exercise - to stay fit and relieve stress, but NOT within
3 hours of bedtime!
Some of these are strange sounding but, hey, if they help ......
Onion - Cut up and onion and put it in a jar. As you go to bed, open the jar, sniff the onion and then
close it and place it on your bed stand. (Not sure why it needs to sit beside you all night!!!)
Wear mittens and
socks - This warms extremities - hands and feet - and helps improve blood flow throughout the body.
with Your Head Facing North - This aligns your body with the magnetic field of the planet, bringing your own energies
into harmony with those of the Earth.
Toe Wiggling - Lie on your back and wiggle your toes up and down
12 times ( both feet at the same time). This will relax your entire body, inside and out.
Tummy Rub -
This soothes the digestive system and helps to bring about a deeper relaxation. An extra benefit is that it helps you to lose
weight by improving the functioning of the digestive system. Simply lie on your back and place your hand on your navel. Begin
by making small clockwise circles, gently gliding your hand over your tummy. Gradually increase the size of your circles until
you run out of tummy to rub. Then gradually reduce their size until you are back at your navel again. Then reverse the direction
(to counter-clockwise) and do the same thing again. Repeat this whole series with your other hand. Do this several times.
(If nothing else, the repetitive motion may put you to sleep!!)
Visualization - Concentrate on something
peaceful or something boring.
Imagine it is time to get up - or tell yourself that you ‘can
not/must not’ sleep. Remember the lullaby from Mary Poppins
"Stay awake, don't rest your head"? It worked for the kids!!
Things to avoid:
Exercise - Avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime. Although exercise earlier in the day my help
tire you out enough to induce sleep.
Smoking - Nicotine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Avoid
smoking in the six hours before your bedtime. (Heck, in that case you may as well quit!!)
Alcohol - Although
alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, it can disrupt your normal sleep pattern during the second half of the night and
leave you feeling unrested.
Caffeine - Caffeine can delay your sleep and cause you to wake up during the
night. Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) after noon.
Liquids - Avoid drinking
fluids before bedtime to decrease the chance of having the urge to go to the bathroom during the night.
- For some a common side effects is the inability to sleep.
Niacin - This can cause
insomnia, especially when taken in high doses.
Green tea - For those with sleep disorders the caffeine
in this can increase the problem.
All "B" vitamins - Should be taken by early afternoon.
Taking them late in the day may interfere with sleep.
Vitamin C - Can act as a stimulant for many.
(which produces tyrosine) - Can cause overstimulation, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations.
They should not be taken late in the day.
St. John's wort - Although some people take St. John's
wort to help with sleep problems, some users have reported insomnia as a side effect. So it may be beneficial to take it earlier
in the day if you are having trouble with insomnia.
SAM-e - This product can interfere with
sleep if taken later in the day.
CoQ10 - A product that can cause insomnia in some patients
and fatigue in others - try taking it early in the day if you suffer with insomnia.
Foods to avoid late in the day:
Red meats - red meat is one of the hardest foods for the
body to digest. All that extra effort requires waking time, so you'll be better off eating lighter fare in the late evening.
Lean meat of any kind - Lean protein can actually make you more alert and provide a boost of energy.
Chinese food - the kind laced with MSG can trigger a number of digestive problems, and people who are especially sensitive
to MSG will find it very difficult to get a good night's sleep. Avoid the heavy, deep-fried and oily Chinese entrees if you
plan to hit the hay early.
Breakfast cereal - the kind with a high sugar content will keep you up for longer
than necessary and may even cause you to gain weight. Try a healthy one; Kashi, oatmeal or other healthier selections with
low sugar content are your best bets.
Canned soup - most contain too much salt, preservatives and additives
that can trigger food allergies; these are often mild, but will prevent your from falling asleep naturally.
Spicy foods - these can cause digestive distress and keep your brain running on full power late into the night.
Beans - the high fiber content of beans, lentils and sprouts are great for the heart but eating beans late at night can tax
the digestive system and leave you with indigestion or cramps.
Crashing fatigue during menopause is a debilitating and complex disorder that causes body exhaustion and extremely poor
stamina. Such disorders are not relieved by bed rest and may even be worsened by physical or mental activity. In other words,
crashing fatigue during menopause is an endless, overwhelming feeling of tiredness. The common signs of crashing fatigue during
menopause are indicated below:
• Overall weariness; a general feeling of being worn-out
• A lack of energy;
a feeling of dragging
• Daytime sleepiness
• A desire for afternoon naps
• Mood changes, especially
more "down" days
• Increasing irritability
• Difficulty managing your normal routine
It could be a psychological issue - if you are suffering anxiety, emotional stress, or trying to do too
much. If these issues are not controlled, they could lead to emotional instability and this can, in turn cause an imbalance
in bodily functioning - resulting in crashing fatigue during menopause. Crashing fatigue brought on by these causes are usually
temporary and will stop when periods of stress end.
It could also be a physical issue - brought on by the decrease of estrogen, which usually regulates the
body's cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol can lead to crashing fatigue. Or it could be a progesterone imbalance that
can create chaos in the central nervous system.
What can help?
1. Life style changes:
relaxation skills: practice deep breathing, progressive relaxation techniques, or yoga.
• If your fatigue is
caused by lack of sleep please visit our sections on insomnia and night sweats for many suggestions on how to cope with those.
• Eat more alkaline-forming foods (figs, dates, almonds,beets, leafy greans and parsley). They will help balance
your body's PH levels. And do not eat close to bedtime as this could cause heartburn that will interfere with your sleep.
to eat less 'processed foods' - the additives in them can often effect our body in adverse ways. The more 'natural'
foods you can eat, the better. Make sure your diet is well balanced.
• Stop excessive use of caffeine.
30 minutes of quiet walking helps!), but no strenuous exercise within three hours of bed time.
• If your body
"insists" on a nap - give in. But make it a short (15 to 20 minute) nap...set a timer! It will serve you body
better than fighting that nap for a couple of hours!
• Try alternative medicine such as accupuncture, biofeedback,
massage, or aromatherapy.
• Consider herbal supplements - talk with your doctor about using black cohosh or
valerian or other herbals.
• Talk with your doctor about the following herbs as well:
Gotu Kola - An Ayurvedic Indian herb which contains no caffeine but does have other stimulant properties
that effectively treat feelings of fatigue. Gotu kola has also been shown to boost mood and outlook, and eliminate the depression
which has been shown to be linked to chronic fatigue in menopausal women.
- Women with fatigue often fail to produce enough adrenal hormones, a condition which licorice root counteracts. But be careful
as large doses will increase blood pressure, so be sure not to take it if you have hypertension or related conditions.
Ginger - This appears to increase energy by stimulating the immune system.
Asian, or Siberian ginseng - On varying levels, members of the ginseng family attack the stress fatigue while boosting
circulation. Do not take ginseng with caffeine, however, as you may become over stimulated and jittery.
Blue Green Algae and Wheat Grass - Used as components of energy smoothies and shakes, both algae and wheat
grass have large quantities of magnesium, a deficiency of which can cause fatigue.
2. More help needed?
• Ask your doctor to check your vitamin and mineral levels
- especially your iron. If you are lacking in any of them this could be a simple help!
• Ask your doctor to
check you adrenalin levels.
• Ask your doctor about the possibility of using:
* Some form
of HRT (if you are post menopausal)
* An antidepressant
* Birth control pills
* Natural progesterone cream
* A CPAP unit if sleep apnea is part of your problem
Other iVillage helps:
Insomnia & Sleep Problems Board
Sleep disorders quiz
8 Natural Remedies for Insomnia
Here are some helpful "Energy" links at iVillage: