Here's What a Hormone Expert Wants You To Know About Sleep If You're 40+

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine By Anna Cabeca, D.O.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. Anna Cabeca is a menopause and sexual health expert currently working in Georgia. She received her doctor of osteopathic medicine in gynecology and obstetrics from the Emory University School of Medicine.
What a Hormone Expert Wants You To Know About Sleep If You're 40+
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You are exhausted. But, for some reason, instead of snoozing, you are lying awake worrying about the bills, family problems, and upcoming social events. Or maybe you are getting up several times to check on your kids? Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, over half of all Americans struggle to get a good night's sleep from time to time. There's an endless list of reasons we can't get to sleep at night, and for women, there is an extra layer of complexity—hormonal changes.

The connection between menopause and sleep quality.

For women who are menopausal and perimenopausal, estrogen and progesterone can fluctuate as the body prepares to transition out of the reproductive years. These hormonal changes are totally normal, but they affect everything from stress levels and mood to body temperature and even your breathing. And, of course, you guessed it; they can also disrupt your circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle). This can start as early as your mid-30's.

All of these changes mean that your sleep might become more restless as you get older. You may be one of those people who wake up too early, or get up to pee and then have trouble falling back to sleep.

I dealt with something similar, but once I made sleep a top priority, I found these seven strategies that women can use to get fantastic rest—no matter their age.

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7 strategies for better sleep:

1. Clean up your diet. 

What we eat affects our sleep patterns. This is often overlooked, but there's scientific data to back it up. If you're eating a lot of sugar, fats, and carbs in the evenings, you may not sleep as well.

The one thing that has helped me more than anything is my Keto Green diet. It's low in carbs, which helps to balance blood sugar levels. As I'm sure you're aware, when our blood sugar levels are wildly fluctuating, it can mess with lots of different areas of our health, including sleep.

2. Try natural sleep aids. 

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There are lots of natural sleep aids on the market today. Some of them are not as healthy as others, so be sure to read the label so you can fully understand what you're about to put in your body.

One popular sleep supplement is melatonin, which you can take at around sundown each day.* (Some patients do report that it works better when taken earlier in the evening as opposed to bedtime.) Magnesium is also a great supplement for restorative sleep.*

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3. Turn off all electronics by 9 p.m.

You've probably figured this one out on your own, but to truly disconnect from the day's stress and activities, it's important to turn off all your devices. This includes computers and smartphones!

These devices have LED screens that are much brighter than what we see in everyday life. These bright, colored lights can disrupt your circadian rhythm, melatonin production, and thus your sleep patterns.

If you absolutely cannot avoid electronics at night, then I suggest downloading an app called F.lux. It reduces the blue light on your screen, and you can set it to kick in at specific preprogrammed times. There are other gadgets on the market, such as blue-light-blocking eyeglasses and blue-light-blocking screens for iPhones, that do something similar.

4. Cut out the stimulants. 

Lots of people enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and some will have dessert or tea or coffee with sugar. We all have our bad little habits we know are probably not helping when it comes to sleep. And though alcoholic beverages initially make you feel sleepy, the alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep cycles, especially REM (dreaming) sleep.

All humans require REM sleep in order to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day, so try your best to avoid drinking alcohol and eating/drinking sugar too close to bed if sleep is a priority.

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5. Pursue oxytocin-boosting activities. 

Oxytocin is the famous "bonding" hormone that's produced when we enjoy life. It's that simple! Hug your loved ones, play with your pets, laugh every day, build some warm friendships, enjoy sex and orgasms—and your sleep will thank you for it.

All these tasks stimulate the release of oxytocin. This "bonding" hormone has a calming effect, leaving you feeling tranquil and at peace with the world. When we feel loved and at peace, we elevate our quality of life and we improve our sleep patterns.

6. Create a sleep haven.

Your bedroom should be your own private retreat, a place where you can go and just relax. We all need a free space where we don't have to work, respond, or be anyone special.

According to research, you can help to create that relaxing environment with just a few adjustments: Keep the room temp at a comfortable level (65°F). Once you're ready to turn in for the night, turn off all the lights. A super-dark and cold room improves sleep and may help reduce hot flashes

There's some controversy about using your bedroom for watching TV, working, and other activities. Many specialists recommend using it only for sleeping or lovemaking. Also, try to keep the clutter to a minimum. When your bedroom looks and feels like your own personal oasis, you'll sleep better. We all need a space that's ours alone.

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7. Establish a healthy nighttime ritual.

Calming down after a busy day takes a bit of effort. Try to set up your own evening activities that relax you. Some of the most popular include sipping chamomile tea, smelling lavender essential oils, listening to relaxing sounds, and meditating. You can also try things like gently stretching your muscles or going for a short walk. Deep breathing and meditation help regulate hormones so they support all natural rhythms in our bodies.

The bottom line:

We all know how amazing we feel after a great night's sleep. Our bodies have what they need to keep working at optimal levels when we're eating and sleeping right. You may even find that when you start getting better sleep, it leads to positive health changes.

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