One of the most common problems that people, especially women, suffer from is not getting a good nights sleep – either getting to sleep or staying asleep. How many of us consistently wake up between 2 and 3 am and then feel listless, dragged out or worse the next day? Here are some practical tips to help you sleeping more and having more energy for during the days.

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Research on insomnia shows that there are many reasons for either failing to fall asleep or remain asleep. It’s important to pinpoint the specific cause and deal with that instead of treating the symptoms. Popping a sleeping pill isn’t a good long-term solution.

Poor sleep and the inability to get a good nights sleep, tends to have greater effects on women, possibly due to differences in hormones and how they affect both sexes' psychological and physiological processes.

Causes of Insomnia

  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Depression
  • Hormone imbalances. The human body uses many ways to ensure that it's working well. This also makes it difficult to pinpoint exact causes for when things go wrong. I have found the book, The Hormone Diet to be very helpful in trying to pinpoint which hormones, if any, may be the source of a problem. This should then be followed up by a medical practitioner.
  • Decreased estrogen levels during menopause may cause sleep problems. Estrogen is involved in the production of other hormones such as melatonin which control aspects of sleep quality.
  • Eating high glycemic foods affects your blood sugar levels which releases insulin into the blood. Insulin levels may cause sleep disturbance in women.
  • Drinking alcohol before bed and using tobacco may also effect sleep.
  • Medical conditions. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), type II diabetes and other chronic medical conditions may also increase problems with sleep. Again, this seems to effect women more strongly than men.

Tips on Getting a Good Nights Sleep

There are many possible causes of insomnia so there is unlikely to be one solution for everyone. The following strategies have been found helpful in promoting good sleep patterns and helping people to get a good nights sleep.

Before Bed:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid exercise other than yoga, tai chi or strength training, less than 3 hours before bed. However, cardiovascular exercise between 3 and 6 hours before bed can promote healthy sleep patterns.
  • Avoid bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates.
  • Resist naps during the day.

In Bed:

  • No TV, social media, computers in bedroom! Avoid using electronic devices less than an hour before bedtime.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room.
  • Use low lighting in your bedroom.
  • Sleep nude or with loose fitting nightclothes.
  • Get out of bed if unable to fall asleep.
  • Use a sleep diary to identify activities which trigger insomnia.
  • If possible, see the light first thing in the morning. Get some sunlight during the day. This may help to regulate your melatonin levels.
  • Wake at the same time every day.
  • Try relaxation techniques:

Techniques that may not work:

The science literature has found that the following therapies are ineffective, or the studies testing them were inconclusive or poorly done.

  • Hormone therapy involving increased estrogen or progesterone may help with some symptoms of menopause but are not generally effective with insomnia.
  • Little scientific evidence for the use of herbal medicines (although this is mostly due to poorly designed studies), and acupuncture.

What's your favorite technique for getting a good nights sleep? Please leave a comment if I've missed it!

References

  • Roush, K. ‘Managing Menopausal Symptoms’, American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 112(6),2012
  • Guidozzi, F., ‘Sleep and sleep disorders in menopausal women’, Climacteric, Vol 16, pgs. 214–219,2013
  • Suarez, E., ‘Self-reported symptoms of sleep disturbance and inflammation, coagulation, insulin resistance and psychosocial distress: Evidence for gender disparity’, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol 22, pgs 960–968, 2008.
  • Siebern, A., Sooyeon, S., Nowakowski, S., ‘Non-Pharmacological Treatment of Insomnia’, Neurotherapeutics, Vol 9, pgs 717–727, 2012.

 

 

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About the Author Sharon Walt


Dr Sharon is a certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who helps men and women with autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, regain their health and start living life to the utmost again. 

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