For me, the worst part of menopausal madness is insomnia...
Maybe you’ve seen the cartoon of a doctor telling a patient, “Insomnia is very common. Try not to lose any sleep over it.” Ha, ha.
Okay, we’re moving on to the next evil menopausal dwarf – one of the seven I’ve been talking about in the past few blogs – sleepy. It’s time to talk about the curse of menopause that bothers me the most. No, it’s not the hot flashes you hear about all the time. For me, the worst part of menopausal madness is insomnia.
There are a lot of jokes about insomnia. The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep. Insomnia is the triumph of mind over mattress. Whiskey may not cure your insomnia, but it makes staying awake much more pleasant. I’m not laughing anymore. Instead, I’m begging for mercy from the sleep fairy.
Like many of you who are in hormonal hell with me, I have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting back to sleep. Exhausted does not equal sleepy anymore. I toss and turn, throw covers off and on, pull my hair back away from my sensitive, itchy, and sweaty skin, try to ignore my racing heart, and worry about stupid stuff. During my worse insomnia laden nights, I’m an expert on infomercials. Just ask me anything about nose hair clippers, egg timers, chopper/shredders, and at-home laser hair removal. I am endlessly fascinated with the internal workings of my digital clock and forever checking to see if anyone else is miserable and awake like me on Facebook.
Experts say sleep evades us women at the mercy of menopause for a lot of different reasons. With impending menopause, most women experience a reduction in progesterone and estrogen. These hormones help regulate sleep, so declining levels can cause sleeping difficulties. Add in the anxiety, the need to urinate more frequently, and good ol’ hot flashes that come with menopause and you have the perfect recipe for loooong, sleepless nights.
The menopausal dwarfs work together, as usual, so of course, the other dwarf “sweaty” is also involved. Who can sleep in a pool of sweat? On really bad nights, my husband almost needs a life preserver. And while I’m at it, hubby also needs a suit of armor so I don’t smack him silly for blissfully sleeping while I’m subtracting how many hours of sleep I can get if I can just fall asleep NOW. And by the way, it’s true. The one who snores always goes to sleep first.
Like Woody Allen once said, “The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won’t get much sleep.” My man whom I love and adore is looking an awful like that that calf lately. Whoops, I think the menopausal dwarfs bitchy and psycho might be back for a visit.
Insomnia is also linked to the other lovely symptoms of menopause we’ve all come to know and love such as irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and mood swings. And don’t forget forgetfulness and lack of concentration, which as a freelance writer who needs to think straight and meet deadlines…um, where was I…? Well, let’s just say it’s not exactly helpful.
And add one more blessing of not sleeping: now studies show that sleep problems contribute to weight gain. Oh goody, guess I better run out and buy some more stretch pants. Worse yet, I read that people with chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of death. I’m visualizing death by menopause on my tombstone. Could life be any crueler?
I’m not alone and frankly that gives me comfort. Misery loves company which is why menopausal women often run in packs. Turns out, many women are tossing and turning with me. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, by the time women actually stop menstruating, somewhere between the ages of 45 and 51, a full 61 percent will report that they can’t get to sleep or stay asleep several nights each and every week. Sorry, but that does make me feel better.
So what can we sleepless suckers do? The Cleveland Clinic has a number of solutions for menopause insomnia, including the following:
- Avoid napping during the day
- Exercise regularly, but no later than three hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Take a hot shower or a warm soak in the tub before going to bed
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool enough to prevent night sweats
- Go to bed at the same time each night
If all else fails, as it did with me, ask your doctor for help. One-third of perimenopausal women use sleep aids at least a few nights a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Confession time: I was a hardcore insomniac during the perimenopausal period and although I tried different herbs and medications, only Ambien would knock me out. Although I wasn’t wild about taking this drug, after I literally went three days without any sleep whatsoever, I caved. Luckily, I don’t have any stories of eating a block of cheese, driving to Vegas, or having forgetful sex with the mailman down the street. Many women are able to get by with the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl, which can bring on drowsiness.
Now that I’m technically in post menopause, I’m happy to report that I only have occasional bursts of insomnia that last a few days to a week. It’s getting better and I hope that gives you girls who are just starting out some hope.
In the meantime, until those evil menopausal dwarfs, including insomnia, leave for a permanent vacation, I’m eternally thankful for my good midnight hour friends Netflix, Candy Crush, and Pinterest.
Baby boomers who want to learn more about finding their bliss, can visit Julie’s blog at www.babyboomerbliss.net.