Waking up in the middle of the night? Struggling to get to sleep and stay asleep? You might be dealing with perimenopausal insomnia.
It’s not uncommon to wake up in the middle of the night – many people do wake several times, but don’t notice as they fall right back to sleep. But if you find yourself waking up at 3am and unable to get back to sleep on a regular basis, there is something underlying that needs attention.
The basics of a sleep cycle
Before we look at how perimenopausal insomnia can interrupt sleep, we need to understand what a normal night of sleep looks like.
Your night-time sleep involves multiple sleep cycles. It’s not uncommon to wake in between these cycles, but most of the time you’ll go right back to sleep afterwards.
These cycles occur throughout the 7 to 9 hours of sleep adults typically need.
Each cycle will include:
- A transition from wakefulness to sleep
- Light sleep
- Deep sleep
- REM sleep (dreaming)
The length of each stage will vary throughout the night. You have longer deep sleep cycles earlier in the night and longer REM sleep cycles as the morning approaches.
What can contribute to perimenopausal insomnia?
If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, there are a few reasons that can contribute. You might be having lighter sleep cycles that make it easier for you to wake up and stay awake. There might be underlying health conditions or some subclinical pain that is keeping your nervous system alert.
But in the majority of cases I see, the biggest cause of perimenopausal insomnia is – you guessed it – STRESS.
stress & perimenopausal sleep issues
Stress is the first thing I consider for clients complaining of suddenly waking up at 3am or struggling to get a good night of sleep. When you feel stressed, your body activates your sympathetic nervous system. This may jolt you awake in the middle of the night, or it could stop you from switching off and sleeping in the first place.
With high stress, you can experience an increased heart rate and blood pressure because of an increase in cortisol and adrenalin. These changes can make it difficult to get to sleep and fall back asleep.
Stress can be related to changes or uncertainty surrounding your job, relationships, health, or finances, or it could be physical in nature.
Some examples of stress include:
- Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
- A diet high in sugars and/or refined carbohydrates
- Medications such as anti-depressants, antibiotics and statins
- Toxin exposure
- Alcohol, cigarette and/or drug use
- Emotional experiences
- Electromagnetic exposures such as screens, electronics, mobile phone towers nearby
- Injuries such as head injuries, spine injuries
- Health conditions including chronic pain, diabetes, thyroid conditions
- Mental stressors such as work, family concerns, kids throwing tantrums…
As you can see, no one is immune to stress!
It’s important to remember that cortisol is a normal part of our body and functioning. It’s not bad unless it is too high, especially for a long time.
Normally, cortisol will peak early morning to noon – which helps get you up out of bed. During chronic or long-term stress it can become dysregulated, and the rhythm of this cortisol wave can get out of whack. It rises too early, leading to disrupted sleep.
Higher cortisol levels also reduce the REM sleep that consolidates memories. So you’re likely to wake feeling foggy and exhausted, and your memory will be MIA.
How to shake perimenopausal insomnia (without resorting to sleeping pills)
So how can you get a better night sleep and stop waking up in the middle of the night?
I bet it’s no surprise to find out that stress management is key! But when I say stress management, I mean managing all forms of stress – not just mental stress.
- Reducing alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks that physically stress the body (I know, I know, but you’ll feel so much better for this bold move!)
- Identifying and removing food intolerances/sensitivities – Metabolic Balance personalised nutrition is my #1 way to achieve this and have you eating the OPTIMAL foods for your biochemistry
- Gentle exercise to help clear cortisol and adrenalin
- Wind down time in the evening with a regular routine – this could include a bath or shower, herbal tea, switching from overhead lights to lamps, reading, journaling or meditating
- Eating well – (including some carbs please!) this allows you to get the nutrients you need for a calm nervous system and plenty of sleep-supporting chemicals, hormones (like melatonin and progesterone!) and neurotransmitters. If you’re not sure where to start, grab a free copy of my Balanced Meal Formula right here!
- Support your progesterone levels – your own brand of valium, progesterone helps buffer your body from stress AND improves your sleep. Eating healthy fats and boosting your intake of beans, nuts, pumpkin, spinach and whole grains like brown rice will help too. Read more about progesterone here.
Struggling to sleep? You don’t have to put up with it – there are ways to overcome your insomnia!
If you’d like your own personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan that helps you sleep through the night, feel calm, in control and sail through to menopause, you’re in the right place.
Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to support and nourish yourself – mind, body and spirit.