Woman with sleep issuesIf you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep, stay asleep, or if you’re approaching menopause and find hormonal fluctuations make sleep more difficult – this post’s for you.

1. Get some exercise

If you are already doing your part to get at least 30-minutes of mild- to moderate exercise three to five times a week, good for you.

If “getting regular exercise” is on your To-Do list, now’s a good time to start. The need for rest (or sleep) is the natural byproduct of physical exertion. Moving forward with a realistic exercise plan is an excellent first step in improving the quality of your sleep.

2. Avoid caffeine after the morning hours

It’s not uncommon for women to become more sensitive to caffeine as they age, but it often goes unnoticed because coffee and tea drinking are often long-term daily habits. An accelerated heart rate and mild feelings of anxiety can keep you awake at night, even eight to ten hours after you’ve had caffeine.

If sleep is more elusive these days, try switching to decaffeinated products after Noon for at least six weeks and see if that makes a difference. In addition to improving your sleep, avoiding caffeine also lowers blood pressure.

3. Avoid smoking, excessive drinking, or other stimulants

While we’re on the topic of caffeine, a known stimulant, let’s talk about other stimuli that disrupt sleep patterns.

    • Smoking. There are a million reasons to quit smoking, which are even more important than good sleep (including pot, vaping, and other substances containing THC).
    • Drinking alcohol. It may seem like alcohol relaxes you, but alcohol is an enemy to good, sound sleep. In fact, the sugar content in alcohol, combined with women’s hormone fluctuations, means drinking can have the opposite effect. Click Here to read more about how alcohol disrupts the circadian rhythm.
    • Taking drugs. Similarly, most narcotics have a negative impact on sleep (and your health) unless prescribed by a physician intentionally to support your sleep habits or existing medical condition(s).

4. Ditch the screens at least 30-minutes before bedtime

The blue light of your TV and gadget screens interferes with melatonin production, part of your brain’s natural, biochemical sleep process. While those “night-mode screens” may claim they’re safe, the verdict is still out.

Good “sleep hygiene” includes winding down without screens for at least 30-minutes before you want to fall asleep. If you go a step further, migrate back to the old-school alarm clock and keep the phone out of your room entirely.

5. Eat well

A healthy diet can support good habits because it reduces the level of stimulants in your system, including sugars and processed foods. We recommend looking into an anti-inflammatory diet, which promotes healthy sleep and reduces inflammation that can exacerbate other health problems that contribute to sleep loss.

6. Create a sleep-supportive bedroom

There are multiple things you can do to create a more supportive bedroom, including:

    • Decluttering so your eyes and brain have a more minimal, soothing environment to rest in a clean, organized space.
    • Making sure your mattress, pillows, sheets, and bedding are comfortable.
    • Use a diffuser to release essential oils that promote relaxation, such as lavender, rose, geranium, clary sage, or essential oil combinations specifically blended for relaxation.
    • Keeping your bedroom and unplugged (aka, “gadget-free”) space.
    • Installing blackout shades and/or white noise machines to block light or sounds.

7. Observe a bedtime ritual

Humans are creatures of habit, so creating and observing a bedtime ritual or routine is an excellent way to prime the brain for “sleep mode” each night. Things to try include:

  • Observing the same sleep/wake times every day
  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Writing in a journal (start a gratitude journal if you don’t have one already)
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Doing some slow stretches to wind down
  • Reading a book or magazine, rather than looking at a screen

Once you’ve eliminated stimulants, created a safe and comfortable sleep environment, and designed a pre-bedtime ritual that works for you, odds are you’ll feel more rested in the morning.

Having a hard time sleeping? Suspect changing hormones may be affecting your ability to sleep at night? Contact us here at Overlake OB/GYN, and we’ll help you find healthy sleep solutions.