The Science Behind A Good Night's Sleep: Expert Advice•
Posted on July 17 2019
You probably know that sleep is when the body repairs itself. A good nights sleep is important for keeping the immune system strong, reducing stress levels, keeping the heart healthy, helping us to maintain the right weight and boosting our brain power and memory. So why do many of us find it so hard to do when we reach a certain age?
There is a scientific reason why getting eight hours sleep during menopause is as likely as winning the lottery. Our falling oestrogen levels lead to hot flushes and night sweats often accompanied by an adrenalin surge, whereas the body requires a cool temperature and a steady heart rate to stay asleep.
Also, let’s not forget about the feeling of anxiety that accompanies menopause, which leads to sleepless nights. Anxiety is activated by the stress hormone cortisol, while oestrogen helps balance our moods. Since oestrogen levels lower with menopause, we are at risk of increased stress, anxiety, and ultimately insomnia.
But where does that leave us in terms of changing our sleep patterns and improving our physical and mental health? The good news is that there have been a lot of successful studies on sleep so if you want to increase the quality and quantity of your sleep, this is what the experts suggest:
1) Dr Sohère Roked, GP and hormone expert at the Omniya MediClinic, says boosting our melatonin levels can improve the depth, quality and pattern of sleep. “We produce most melatonin between 10pm and 2am so aim to be in bed before midnight. Even alarm clock light can disrupt production so make sure your bedroom is completely dark.”
2) ‘While the menopause may trigger insomnia, it tends to be the anxiety and fear associated with sleeplessness that amplifies the problem,” explains Dr Guy Meadows, clinical director of the Sleep School and sleep expert for Bensons for Beds. “The traditional advice is to get out of bed and do something boring, like read a book, but when you get up it’s logged by your internal body clock and can become a habit. Your body says: ‘Hey it’s 2am, time to get up!’. There’s a lot of benefit from simply resting at night so I recommend staying in bed and using mindfulness to ease anxiety instead.”
3) Though a lot of us use alcohol to relax before bed, especially a cheeky glass of wine, there's evidence that it will prevent you from getting quality sleep because it significantly reduces stage 5 sleep or REM (rapid eye movement). A study out of the University of Melbourne found that students who drank before bed had interrupted sleep patterns. It may reduce the time it takes to get to sleep, but it won't help you get the benefits of restorative sleep.
4) Professor Jo Brewis of The Open University led an independent study into our vest tops and how they helped women to sleep. She comments that; “The main aim of this study was to identify how the Become product works to alleviate key symptoms of the menopause in each of the following stages: early perimenopause, late perimenopause and early post menopause, and how effective it is in doing so. The results have shown that a high majority of women could benefit from wearing Become, with an overwhelming amount identifying a reduction in sweating and feeling of heat. As such, we conclude that the vest top could be an invaluable tool for anyone experiencing hot flushes or night sweats.”
It may seem counter intuitive to wear clothes in bed if you are prone to feeling hot, but the fabric is so intelligent that it forms a protective barrier between you and the bedsheets so you don’t wake up shivering in sticky, wet sheets. Shop Anti-flush vest tops here.
5) According to the Journal of Sleep Medicine, a diet low fibre and high in saturated fat is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep. "It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fibre could influence sleep parameters," said Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, principal investigator in the study. Up your intake of veg and you may be pleasantly surprised how it helps with sleep.
Sleep is often talked about in our closed Facebook group, The Chilled Menopause. If you want more tips, join the group.
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