Interrupted Sleep: Does This Happen to You?
Getting up at 3:24 am drives me crazy! It happens every night. I’m in bed, warm and cozy under my favorite Matouk sheets, and BOOM! I am suddenly conscious with an immediate thought piercing my calm, dreamy slumber. “Did I turn off the oven?” “What on earth was I thinking telling my 23 year son to go on J-date during a pandemic?” “Should I tell my daughter, Charlotte, to only have one scoop of Jenni’s ice cream, or is that bad mothering?” “When do my husband ever get any privacy?” Usually, the wake-up call is some perseveration from the day that troubles me and pokes me like a toddler with a nightmare.
I have relished a full night’s sleep since all three of my kids had become pre-teens and sunk into their sleep abysses for years already. I’m a “good sleeper,” too. I want to get back on the Acela of sleep trains!
I’ve tried pretty much everything—CBD Oil drops on my tongue, Melatonin meltalways, Valerian and Chamomile teas, Magnesium gummies, pre-tuck-in yoga stretches, even a prescription for Lunesta. These “remedies” either just plain didn’t work or made me sleepy all day. Thus, the big question is: what is happening to me and what do I do?
Menopause Insomnia and Hormones
On average, women’s sleep patterns are better than men’s, BUT when estrogen levels drop, women’s great sleep quality goes out the window. Sleep is closely related to the hormones in women’s bodies. Ok, so here are the facts. While I haven’t hit menopause just yet, I’m definitely in perimenopause, and being in either, means that there are substantial fluctuations in hormone levels. I’m not sleeping because of these fluctuations. Dr. Zoe Schaedel, a specialist in Menpause care sleep issues, was clear that sleep problems are not about the level of hormones present in the body, but when they drop.
Hot Flashes and Sleep
Waking up in the middle of the night is my interrupted sleep issue, but many women experience other interruptions like hot flashes and night sweats or they have trouble falling asleep. Drops in hormone levels affect a woman’s overall health and well-being, often causing low-mood, anxiety, even without hot flashes and insomnia. Where to start? For temperature changes and night sweats and those general menopause symptoms—HRT (hormone replacement therapy –customized per patient) or SSRI (Serotonin ReUptake Inhibitor) and Gaba (Gamma Aminobyturic Acid) have shown to help.
Sleep, Stress, Anxiety, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Either waking up in the middle of the night or trouble falling asleep, all interrupted sleep, lands in the category of insomnia. So, what’s keeping me awake.–Stress. I’m feeling more stressed about everything these days—from my adult kids home, to my parents isolating in Kansas, to my dog’s barking problems, and my husband’s snoring. And these are just a few.
Waking up at night is a change in my sleep routine. It’s a new behavior and since it’s been happening regularly, I’ve come to expect it. As soon as I awaken, my brain is triggered — First to the issue, but then to a bigger one. I think to myself “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow” and I get even more stressed about my well-being on the other side of this lack of sleep. The stress about sleep releases adrenalin and cortisol making it really hard to fall back asleep. It’s a vicious cycle creating a new unwanted sleep behavior.
Sleep Hygiene and Trouble Falling Asleep
I have a number of friends who work late into the night after finishing up household chores, then collapse into bed only to lie awake. They don’t really wind down and have trouble falling asleep. I, on the other hand, have a pretty strong sleep hygiene regimen, that set of rules I follow to prepare for sleep. I wash my face with my Clarisonic, swipe some clear-skin pads over my face, apply retinol, Skin Brightener and Vintner’s daughter, eye cream, attend to my tooth brushing with my Sonicare, and floss. I get into bed, journal a bit about the good things that happened during the day to set a positive vibe and remind myself to be grateful. Finally, I read…just a few pages. It’s lights out by 10 pm or so. I’m tired just reading these all of my steps.
Also, I am careful not to drink caffeine in the afternoon and, unless, I’m going out I don’t drink wine near bedtime (alcohol aggravates perimenopause and menopause symptoms). So, since I’m pretty much a sleep do-gooder, Dr. Schaedel suggests the best solution for my type of insomnia is Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. It’s a kind of therapy that is about changing behavior. CBT is not just for depression and anxiety. CBT is for sleep behavior. Right now, bed has become a place for me to think as opposed to a place to rest. So, I should think of CBT like sleep training for adults.
A New Routine for Trouble Sleeping: Sleep Plan
The key is for me to have a plan. First, I can acknowledge that it’s ok to have interrupted sleep. And, then, when I wake up alert, I’m ok about it. Secondly, then, the game plan is to not lie there and think about what I’m thinking about. I can go into another room, go to the restroom, and I let myself go back to bed in 5 or ten minutes. I will have stimulus control and reset my association of my bed with sleep. My bed will not be about thinking, being awake, and thinking about being awake. Bed=sleep.
Takes practice like anything else.
And who does like to practice good sleep?