Sounder Sleep For Women
Whether you're a decade or more away from the typical '50+' menopause age, going through this stage of life, or post-menopause – the effects of declining female hormone levels can start causing sleep disturbances. Couple this with stress and busy modern life, and you have a recipe for insomnia, reduced energy and wellness – plus a scientifically proven increased risk of health problems. We've uncovered six simple steps that you can use for sounder sleep:
1. Reprogram Your Natural Body Clock With Light
Effectively stimulating your delicate internal body clock (circadian rhythm) is a key to better sleep. Indeed, scientists have discovered two simple ways to positively affect your body clock and promote the production of sleep hormones - at the right time.
Step one is to get a daily dose of natural light during the morning, according to the Journal of Sleep – so a morning walk with the dog, or a jog in the park is an easy way to stay fit and calibrate your brain to know it's day time!
The second step is to try and limit bright lights and exposure to the blue light emitted by technology, in the evening; too much stimulation stops the body from winding-down, and prevents a healthy synthesis of the sleep hormone, melatonin.The biggest culprit are tablet devices, which emit shorter wavelength radiation and are held closer to the eyes. However, larger screens, computer monitors and televisions also contribute to the problem. Instead, opt for activities like reading or listening to a book, playing relaxing music, or planning for the next day. Dim the lights as early as you can, opting for evening calm and ambiance. Ideally, try and get to bed an hour earlier than you currently do – you'll start noticing the difference.
2. Caffeine Control – Get Smart for Sleep
Most of us love coffee – and perks such as boosting energy in the morning, and providing a dose of potentially disease preventing antioxidants, makes for a good argument when it comes to keeping it in your life. However, caffeine has a dark side, too – it has a risk of contributing to insomnia, stress and anxiety. Caffeine affects us for around five hours but varies between individuals, so be aware of this and try not to consume caffeinated products much later than mid-afternoon, particularly if you're sensitive. Switching to green tea might be a worthwhile alternative, as it contains about 25% of the caffeine content of coffee as well as compounds such as l-theanine that offset caffeine’s stimulating effects. Other interesting options include getting creative with teas – try ginger, lemon and Manuka honey.
3. Resistance Training for Hormonal Sleep Balance
In general, regularly performing 20-30 minutes of exercise a day, is a great way to combat stress and promote deeper sleep. However, because exercise increases body temperature, you may sleep better if you don't exercise 5-6 hours before bed; if you do, try a cooling shower before wrapping yourself up in the evening. One form of exercise that can be a god-send when it comes to improving hormone balance, is resistance training – such as pilates, strength yoga, resistance bands and weight training. Optimising your diet with a daily intake of Omega 3 oils from fish or a supplement is also proven to support hormones, sleep and mood.
4. Turn your bedroom into a Lavender Sanctuary
We've already covered the benefits of dimming the lights early and winding-down, but you can harness the benefits of sleep-promoting lavender and turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. The essential oils in lavender are proven to soothe the nervous system and support restorative sleep – so diffusing them in your bedroom, adding the oil to a 'carrier' massage oil such as almond, and putting a few drops on your pillow, can have a genuine effect on sleep. In addition, try these other bedroom sanctuary tips:
- Ensure your room is very dark by using blinds or thick curtains, plus a beauty mask.
- Dim the lights early in the evening to ensure your bedroom is soothing and stimulates melatonin
- Ensure your room is clean and makes you feel relaxed
- Control temperature – around 18° C tends to be perfect
- Turn-off electronic lights and technology if possible!
- Don't use a brightly lit alarm clock – go back to the 1980's!
- Unwind with massage, meditation audios, a book, or calming music
5. Choosing Your Night Cap
Millions of people love to wind-down with a glass or wine or their favourite tipple, and while it can induce a sense of relaxation, science suggests it can cause short night-time brain arousals that can prevent truly restorative sleep; it also destroys collagen so is a big no for combating skin ageing. One alternative is to set the goal of achieving true relaxation and peace at night, by creating a wellness ritual. Here's an example:
- Create a living space/bedroom with a real sense of calm
- Make sure it's clean, tidy and furnished in a way that you love
- Diffuse essential oils at night and create ambiance by using soft lighting
- Play soothing music
- Try some meditation and/or yoga
- Self-massage with a lavender oil blend
- Take Neubria Drift to add to your calm
The chances are, you'll start to feel so blissful, that the glass of wine might lose its appeal. However, even if it doesn't, you'll still sleep better.
6. Take Control of Stress – Easier Said than Done?
We live in a world where we're constantly told to 'relax and reduce stress'. The problem is, if it was that simple, we'd all be walking around without a care in the world, sleeping like babies and feeling blissful 24/7. So, rather than pretend that stress can be instantly eradicated, we're better off acknowledging it, talking about it, and finding ways to try and take control of it. Mind-body techniques like meditation, yoga, and tai chi or relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis have proven beneficial in stress reduction. Journaling is another effective tool for writing down your negative thoughts, before ending with gratitude. In essence, stress doesn't help us sleep, and you'll show yourself some real love by making sure you do something that relaxes you before you get into bed.