Aaah, menopause. So many lovely symptoms, eh? Lack of sleep was the worst one for me. After about a decade of chronic insomnia, I was no longer a rational person.
It was affecting every aspect of my life, from my mental wellbeing to my physical health.
The insomnia started when I was in my late 30s, so I didn’t think it had anything to do with my plummeting oestrogen, but rather the fact that I had two young children and a busy life.
Even when I was officially diagnosed as postmenopausal at age 43, I didn’t know enough about the menopause to link it with my sleep problems.
According to the Sleep Foundation, around 12% of women experience sleep complaints on average. But once perimenopause hits, that number skyrockets to 39-47%. Postmenopausal women have it even worse, with up to 60% suffering from sleep disorders. Whoa!
After trying pretty much every sleep remedy under the sun, as well as regularly practising Reiki, starting intermittent fasting and going on hormone replacement therapy, I’m finally in a place where I’m getting a decent night’s sleep more often than not.
Still, I rely on my arsenal of sleep aids, which I swear by. Two of these are BetterYou Magnesium Sleep Body Lotion and the Orihea sleep mask.
Magnesium and sleep
Magnesium is a super-important mineral that helps promote overall wellbeing and relaxation, among other things. It supports proper muscle and nerve function, regulates blood pressure and maintains your immune system.
A magnesium deficiency can affect the quality of your sleep, big time.
Your body needs magnesium to stay in a state of rest – low levels can cause restless muscles that can keep you awake at night.
A lot of women swear by magnesium supplements for a good night’s sleep, but unfortunately, my stomach doesn’t like them. So I decided to try the BetterYou Magnesium Sleep Body Lotion instead. It combines Zechstein magnesium chloride (the purest type), as well as lavender and chamomile essential oils.
The lotion is specially formulated to relax tired muscles, slow sensory activity and quieten the mind, allowing for a deeper and more sustained sleep cycle. I rub it into my shoulders, neck and lower legs every night, and I really feel that it makes a difference.
Without it, I get restless legs, which is incredibly disruptive and makes it hard to fall asleep. This is another common complaint among menopausal women.
While the lotion is helpful, it’s not intended to replace your magnesium if you have a major deficiency. The tricky thing is that magnesium levels are difficult to measure and thus, a deficiency is hard to diagnose. As magnesium is mostly found in your bones rather than your blood, a blood test that shows normal magnesium levels may not be a good indicator of your true situation.
Although you can get magnesium through your diet, many people still don’t get enough this way. It’s found in foods like dark leafy green veggies (spinach, kale, etc.), nuts and seeds, legumes (beans, chickpeas), whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa), seafood, dark chocolate and tofu, so it’s good to incorporate these foods into your diet.
Of course, there are also supplements available if you’re able to take them. Magnesium supplements come in various forms, with some easier on digestion than others. (That’s a whole other blog post.)
Light and sleep
Light is the most important external factor affecting sleep, says the Sleep Foundation. “While most people intuitively know that it’s easier to sleep when it’s dark, the link between light and sleep goes much deeper.”
That’s because it plays a central role in regulating your circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock that tells us when to be awake and when to rest. Light also affects the production of an essential sleep-promoting hormone called melatonin.
If you have too much light exposure or it’s poorly timed, like right before bedtime, your day-night schedule can get messed up, in turn causing your sleep cycle to go haywire.
It’s important to make your bedroom as dark as possible, for example by keeping electronic devices out and getting blackout curtains. But even when you set up your room to make it dark, research shows that our eyelids still don’t keep all the light out.
My husband often watches Netflix on his phone in bed while I’m sleeping, so I needed some help. That’s where the Orihea sleep mask came in.
Sleep masks have always annoyed me because they press against your eyelids, but this isn’t your average sleep mask. The contoured 100% blackout eye cover allows plenty of room for your eyes and eyelashes, so you can blink properly while wearing it (although technically, your eyes will be closed, lol). For me, that’s a game-changer.
The Orihea is made of a light and breathable foam with a smooth fabric that doesn’t cause friction against your skin. The elasticated adjustable strap at the back has a Velcro fastening that lies flat against your head. The mask is dark purple and comes in a little Hessian bag.
Enough about me… what about you? Has menopause (or peri-menopause) affected your sleep? Comment below!