We’ve all been there. Wide awake at 2 am. Knowing the alarm is going to be ringing…thinking about all we have to do and how difficult it will be to do it when we’re exhausted from not sleeping well. But there are other issues associated with poor sleep as well – ones that disproportionately affect women. Sigh. Insomnia is a particularly prevalent issue for women going through menopause or breast cancer treatment (hello hot flashes and night sweats!)
Did you know? Poor sleep in women is associated with:
An increased risk and rate of heart attacks
Metabolic changes, especially central weight gain
Cognitive dysfunctions including memory/ fuzzy thinking
Mood alterations, especially anxiety, depression and catastrophising
Increased pain, particularly back pain and bone health/osteoporosis may also be affected
What can we do?
Meditate, don’t medicate…especially not with alcohol. While a drink or two may help you get to sleep, it won’t help you stay there. Between its rollercoaster effect on blood sugar, its diuretic effects making you need to get up for the bathroom and its diuretic effect making you wake up with that lovely dry mouth…alcohol is also oestrogenic, which is not great for any women going through menopause/ breast cancer treatment where oestrogen dominance is often a driver for symptoms like…hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia! Instead…maybe try a body scan (you might like to try this one that I recorded recently?) or have a look at my video below on mindfulness meditation strategies, which has some useful strategies like switching from a ‘To Do’ list to a ‘Done’ list, the practice of gratitude and more…It’s worth noting that the research shows that meditating/ practicing mindfulness and other CBT techniques such as guided imagery has been shown to decrease hot flashes by up to 46% so if that’s a driver in your sleeplessness, it could definitely be worth a try
Exercise outside in the morning – exposing your retinas to sunlight in the morning may be helpful in re-setting your circadian rhythm…and at the other end of the spectrum, avoid blue light from your phone/computer in the 2 hours before you want to sleep
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day – regardless of workday vs weekend…but…if you’re going to bed at 10 and waking up at 2am…maybe try going to bed a bit later, to see if timing changes encourages your brain to let you sleep a little longer – so if going to bed at 11 means you now sleep until 6, that means you have increased your sleep efficiency and you are re-training your brain to stay asleep for longer – then you can gradually work backwards to a bedtime that’s going to give you a good night’s sleep.
If you’re lying in bed replaying every bad decision you’ve made since 1997, or panicking about ALL THE THINGS you have to do tomorrow – get a notebook and pen and write them down. The key to defeating overwhelm is an action plan. And as for that poodle perm of 1998? It was cool. Let it go. Distract your brain with an audiobook or some music and focus on your breathing.
Speaking of distractions…I have some exciting new courses coming online soon – ‘Good Guts and Brilliant Bowels’, ‘Female Pelvic Pain Rehab’ and ‘Female Oncology Rehab – Gynae, Bladder and Bowel Cancer Recovery’ – more details soon!
And here, without further ado, are some strategies for harnessing your breath and awareness, to cultivate a sense of calm in stressful times. I hope you enjoy!
Until next time
Onwards and Upwards!