In Medieval times, shepherds who needed to keep a close head count of their flocks did so before they could go to sleep for the night. In “Don Quixote” a method was used to count goats for inspiring sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it has nothing to do with folklore or tilting at windmills. The answer is in your hormones and not in your imagination.
About half of all American women find it harder to get a good night’s sleep once they hit perimenopause and menopause. These hormone imbalances can cause sleeplessness which carries the double edged sword of worsening the hormone imbalance. Insomnia in women perpetuates hormone imbalance and increases the symptoms of menopause because the body lacks sleep repair and rejuvenation.
As we age the natural chemical that regulates our internal clocks to help us fall asleep at night starts to decline with the menstrual cycle. As you get closer to menopause it continues to slow production, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. The Perimenopause biological shift starts anywhere from age 40 to 55, a time when the ovaries start slowing down production of estrogen and progesterone, both of which are also hormones that promote sleep. Once Menopause starts you’re still losing the hormones that help you fall asleep, but you’re also waking frequently and having a hard time falling back to sleep. Having problems maintaining sleep is actually one of the early signs of menopause.
So what to do? We already know counting sheep is useless. Here are some tips:
- Drink cherry juice. It’s a natural source of the sleep-wake cycle hormone melatonin and amino acid tryptophan, and contains an enzyme that reduces inflammation and decreases the breakdown of these natural sleep aids.
- Sip a Valerian tea with honey two hours before bed.
- Soak in a tub with lavender oils just before bed. Lavender has several therapeutic properties, but is most commonly associated with relaxation.
- Keep your bedroom dark to support melatonin levels and your circadian rhythm.
It’s also a pretty good idea to use exercise and meditation to ward off the affects of hormonal sleep imbalance. Beats counting sheep.