Let's talk about SLEEP!
I realised today that I haven't spoken about sleep in quite a while, and it's one of the top 5 issues that women tell me they struggle with.
Lots of women struggle with sleep or insomnia for years, but many others have no issue with sleep until they reach... Perimenopause.. and then BAM!
Their lovely slumber is affected.
And as you will no doubt be aware, if you have ever had a bad night's sleep, it affects EVERYTHING else.
It affects your mood
It affects what you eat
It affects your cravings for sugar and caffeine
It affects your energy levels
Now, we can all just about cope with the odd night of bad sleep, but when it is happening on a regular basis (and for some women, a nightly basis), this is where it gets problematic.
Sleep is arguably just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to good health.
And there are usually two types of sleep issues for women in their 40s and 50s - either they can't get to sleep, or they can't stay asleep (and sometimes for a few, it is both!).
So first of all, let's look at the main causes of poor sleep for women in their 40s and 50s because this is the age that sleep can start to become problematic due to... you guessed it... changing hormones, because hormones do help us to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Here are some of the most common disruptors of sleep:
* Poor blood glucose control, or eating a high glycaemic diet
* Lack of important minerals such as magnesium
* Chronic Stress/adrenal fatigue due to disrupted cortisol and melatonin (the main sleep hormone)
* Stimulants especially caffeine
* Sleep Apnoea
* Certain medications
* Eating too close to bedtime
* Not eating enough throughout the day
* Hormonal changes (especially loss of progesterone)
* Using technology too late/screen use before bed
* Missing your sleep 'window' and not having a good circadian sleep rhythm
* Lack of sunlight exposure (vitamin D)
* Lack of exercise
So, if you suffer from poor sleep, what can you actually do about it? The key is to get to the underlying problem, so that you can work from that point, rather than focusing on the symptom of poor sleep itself.
Avoid blue lights - especially after 8 pm. Blue light from TVs, computers and mobile phones can seriously affect your sleep, especially when used regularly over time. I like to use blue-light-blocking glasses if I am doing screen work after 6 pm. If you'd like to know which glasses I recommend, just reply to this email and let me know and I'll share my favourite ones.
Create an environment of darkness - nighttime triggers melatonin release, our natural sleep hormone. Using black-out blinds is a very good idea to ensure no outside light can disturb your sleep.
Maintain a natural sleep rhythm – we all have a circadian sleep rhythm and if you can work out what yours is, it will help. Going to bed at the same time, and waking at the same time is a great way to regulate your body clock. And getting daylight onto your face within 30 minutes of waking is also a great idea!
Spending 20 mins outside each morning even if it's cloudy is a great idea. Walk the kids to school, walk the dog, walk yourself! Do some exercise in the garden, or just have your cup of tea outside, even in the winter. It's not sunlight that is required for this, so much as daylight on the eyes.
Stress - if you know that stress is an issue for you, this has to be got under control. But if you think that stress is a bigger problem for you and that your adrenals may be struggling, it is definitely advisable to seek some support, to find out exactly what is going on.
The mineral testing that I run for all of my clients, shows us what is happening with the adrenals at a cellular level, and indicates if you are in adrenal burnout or in a highly stressed state (or both!).
Blood Glucose - if you are waking multiple times in the night, this is where you need to start. Are you eating lots of refined carbs? Are you eating enough protein? What time are you eating? Do you drink caffeinated drinks? Often blood glucose balance can be the thing that makes all the difference. And again, this is something I focus on with all of my clients, no matter what.
Mineral Balance - one of the most common underlying causes of poor sleep I see is mineral imbalances. These can severely affect our sleep. If you have tried everything you can think of, and are still struggling with poor sleep, I highly recommend investigating mineral balance.
Wind down for 90 minutes before bed - I love to spend time reading, having a bath with essential oils and magnesium salts, or meditating, especially if my nervous system feels wired after a busy day.
Avoid night-time exercise - your gym session or pavement run after work could be contributing to your sleep issues! Night-time exercise raises cortisol levels too late in the day. If you are struggling with sleep, and exercising late, try changing your exercise time.
Avoid caffeine, especially after noon - make sure you drink caffeine before noon and reduce the amount you consume in a day, especially if you are a poor converter (if you get jittery after coffee, you most likely are!). Drink herbal teas like camomile in the evening before bed.
Avoid alcohol - alcohol affects blood sugar and is a stimulant, plus puts strain on the liver, which is the main detoxification organ, which can then in turn wake you during the night.
Look into HRT - if the underlying cause of your sleep is falling hormones, especially the very calming progesterone, HRT can help especially if you are struggling with other peri/menopause symptoms. Of course, not everyone can have HRT, and for those that can, it doesn't always help with sleep, but it is worth exploring with your GP or a private hormone doctor.
If you have tried all of these suggestions, and still struggle with sleep, or if you feel that your sleep issues run deeper, it's surely time to do some exploration, isn't it?
I mean, how long can you continue with not enough sleep?!
I always suggest starting with a mineral test and looking at your blood glucose control, because this is foundational, everything requires minerals to be in balance, and it gives us a whole host of further information and direction. And then we can investigate further if necessary.
If you'd like to find out how hair mineral testing (HTMA) and nutritional therapy might help to get to the bottom of your sleep issues (or other symptoms you are struggling with such as low energy, low mood, anxiety, and weight gain), I recommend booking an Exploratory Call.
In that call, we chat through what is likely going on for you, personally, and what the best course of action would be.
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