Many people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, especially as we grow older. This article is beneficial for both men and women but addresses issues for women who are going through Menopause or who are Post-Menopausal. However, much of the information can also be applied to men and women of all ages.
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Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep for a length of time. According to Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Chronic Insomnia is the inability to get an entire night’s sleep (for most nights) over a one month period of time. They state that insomnia “… affects one out of ten Americans (about 40 million) and at least 30 percent of healthy seniors.” The inability to get a good night sleep affects our psychological, mental, emotional and physical health.
Three or more days of sleep deprivation can cause a noticeable and serious decline in our performance levels and it can even cause mild personality changes. The ability to work creatively or to perform repetitive movements like knitting, crochet or repetitive movements at work can become noticeable and problematic.
During menopause and after many women experience restless or disturbed sleep. They may toss and turn all night or fall asleep and wake up many times throughout the night. They may also experience a general inability to fall asleep to begin with. Basically insomnia in postmenopausal women can be categorized into two main areas of cause, physical and psychological. The physical causes are typically increased after menopause.
Stress and Emotional Sleeplessness
When any of us are dealing with emotional stress on a daily basis it can cause sleeping problems. Concerns about finances, failing health of parents and loved ones, worries about an uncertain future, world events, a declining economy and even leaving the workplace (retirement or dismissal, as well as many other causes can all wreck havoc on our peace and add to feelings of anxiety and sleepless nights. The following natural nutritional supplements may help to relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Follow these links to learn more about these beneficial products:
MindSoothe for Depression, Insomnia, OCD, and Anxiety
Triple Complex Calm Tonic Tissue Salts
PureCalm for Anxiety & Panic Attacks.
Physiological Changes and Sleeplessness
As mentioned previously, many of the causes for sleep disorders in postmenopausal women are the result of physiological changes in our bodies. Most of those changes center on the hormonal changes and declines that our bodies are going through.
Estrogen: The Multi-faceted Hormone
What we call, “Estrogen” is really a combination of a number of estrogens and collectively they are a powerful hormone. It is a reproductive hormone, but that is not all that it does for us. It acts on many organs and body systems that are unrelated to the reproductive system. Hormones are messengers and they help our bodies to communicate with itself on a cellular level. Our bodies have estrogen receptors in our arteries, brain, bladder, breasts, bone, heart, liver, reproductive organs, and skin. Each of the estrogen cell receptors requires estrogen to stimulate it so that we will have normal cellular function. Who would have guessed that the hormone that is so prevalent during pregnancy would also be necessary and beneficial for our skin and to help control our body temperature but it does all of this and more.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine
- Maintain a regular bedtime schedule and routine (regular wake up and go to bed times)
- Try to go to bed 1 hour before you want to fall asleep
- Avoid eating one hour before lying down to sleep
- Take a warm bath to help relax your body
- Massage beneficial essential oils that enhance relaxation, sleep and peace into the soles of your feet prior to sleeping (see more below)
- Avoid excessive caffeine in beverages and foods
- Don’t read, watch or do anything that would cause you to think more about stressful things (balance the checkbook statement, pay bills, respond to difficult emails, etc.)
- Don’t read or watch things just prior to bedtime that will require your brain to work harder, to think and concentrate intently (studying, working on the computer, watching or reading documentaries or “heavy” movies with lots of trauma or difficult situations, etc.). Instead engage in “light” reading such as humorous books, encouraging Psalms, etc.
- To aid sleep and to help set your circadian rhythm, sleep in a room that is very dark/pitch black. It is also necessary to get strong light in our eyes when we first wake up.
Beneficial Essential Oils
There are a number of essential oils and blends that can be helpful to our bodies when we need to calm down, relax, and sleep. If you are fighting feelings of depression, anxiety or when going through stressful situations many of those same oils can be helpful during the daytime as well. I regularly use therapeutic/medicinal quality essential oils and have found the following to be very helpful:
Serenity – The 100% pure essential oils from the citrus family that are part of this synergistic blend are among those in a 1995 study that found that citrus fragrances boosted immunity, induced relaxation and reduced depression. The Ylang-ylang Extra in this blend is known to combat anger and low self-esteem, and also restores confidence and peace.
Sandalwood – The soft, sweet, earthy, woodsy, balsamic fragrance of this pure therapeutic grade Biblical essential oil is safe for all skin types and very beneficial for mature skin because it softens and assists in the effectiveness of collagen in our skin. It is an anti-depressant, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, calming, expectorant, nerve sedative.
Cedarwood – The fragrance is soft, woodsy and relaxing. This is a Biblical oil too and it definitely helps me to relax and be calm when things are making me anxious, upset or depressed. It is Anti-inflammatory, anti-lipic, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-seborrheic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, sedative, insect repellent, lymphatic stimulant.
Lavender – Lavender is part of the mint family of herbs. Lavender essential oil is an adaptogen and known to bring the body into balance and to work wherever there is a need. This is the most versatile essential oil available. It has earned this well used phrase. . .When in Doubt – Use Lavender! This essential oil is know to be: Alkalizing, calming, anti-coagulant, anti-depressant, anti-fungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, tonic, regenerative, sedative.
Purchase these essential oils now:
Eating Before Bed
Many people enjoy having a bedtime snack or beverage. At this time of day, it is important to avoid certain foods and then there are others that are good choices just before bed.
Avoid Eating or Drinking Foods that Contain:
Caffeine is a stimulant. Avoid beverages with coffee, black & green tea, colas, chocolate, etc.
Tyramine increases the release of norepinephrine which is a brain stimulant. Avoid eatting cheese, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, spinach, tomatoes, wine and pork.
Eat Foods that Contain:
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. This means this amino acid is essential for our bodies health and that our bodies don’t produce it therefore we must get it from dietary means. Tryptophan is important because it is a precursor for Serotonin which can be converted to Melatonin. Foods rich in Tryptophan include: yogurt, kefir, tuna, turkey and other poultry, spirulina, pumpkin seeds, bananas, dates, figs, milk and nut butters.
Regular Exercise Habit
It is important to get some regular exercise every day. Get as many steps into your day as possible: the recommendation is 10,000 steps each day. If your daytime actives require you to be more sedentary, it becomes important that you include or schedule a time to go for a walk or use a treadmill. Regular exercise helps to relieve stress, and assists our bodies to sleep and will help you to feel better in general.
As we age our bodies are not as flexible as they once were and stretching becomes essential. If a stretching routine is new to you, I suggest that you find a good workout video to use. Ballet and Christian yoga movements can be very beneficial. Here is a link for a line of “alternative” movements or Christian yoga . Many yoga workouts are good too, you just need to have discernment and be able to separate those movements that are good for stretching and those that get incorporated into eastern religion. Here is a good article about the benefits of Yoga. If you find this difficult, then stay away from yoga and use video workouts that do not overlap into eastern religion.
It is also a good idea to include some weight bearing exercises to your weekly routine. Using light weights or movements that work your body against itself will help to strengthen muscle groups and your bones.
Using White Noise
Many women, especially those who are or were mothers become LIGHT sleepers. Some of us become such light sleepers that if our infants breathe differently in the other room we hear it and wake to see if they are okay. I am one of those very light sleepers. The furnace or air conditioner cycling on and off would wake me during the night. Cars driving down the road, the dog snoring, etc. all became occasions for me to wake up. Long ago, I found some help. Before sleep sound machines were available, I began to run a fan in my bedroom during the night. I do not blow it over me, in fact I aim it at the wall. The constant noise of the fan blowing helps to block out annoying ambient noise and it helps me sleep much better.
I have since tried the sleep sound machines but I personally don’t like them. The sounds are too intermittent for me and I prefer to use an inexpensive box window fan that costs about $10. If you are a light sleeper, try using a sound machine or an inexpensive fan like me.
Additional Nutritional Supplements that May Help
Calcium – use only plant based calcium supplementation (not from coral or non plant sources) up to 1,500 mg per day (divided and taken throughout the day and before bed)
Magnesium – 1,000 mg per day or balanced with calcium – this is a much needed supplement to help balance the calcium and to help the muscles relax.
Get more info on NR Essentials Calcium/Magnesium is a high-quality mineral supplement for everyday support of the skeletal system, nervous system, and muscular system. This supplement contains equal amounts of calcium and magnesium to build and maintain healthy bones.
Melatonin – up to 5 mg per day taken before bed on occasion (never give to children) or try this blend of natural sleep supporting ingredients…Follow this link to get more information about SerenitePlus for Insomnia and Sleeping Disorders. Also, Sandalwood essential oil helps to boost the production of Melatonin to learn more, follow the link above “Sandalwood”.
Get more info on NR Essentials Vitamin D3 – supplies vitamin D3, which is normally produced by the human body after exposure to direct sunlight. D3 helps the body with the absorption of calcium, which is needed to build strong bones. It has also been shown to regulate the immune system.
This vitamin helps to boost our immune system and helps to fight the damage from free radicals. It’s good for our eyes and helps to prevent night blindness and cataracts. It assists our bodies in the production of red blood cells and the use of oxygen .
For more information on NR Essentials Vitamin B-Complex – a blend of B vitamins — nutrients that are vital for a healthy metabolism. B vitamins help synthesize neurotransmitters and metabolize proteins and fats. It plays a role in supporting good moods, ability to handle stress and is helpful in learning and memory.
Other causes of sleep disorders that should be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional include: Sleep Apnea, severe snoring (this could be tied to Sleep Apnea), adrenal fatigue, clinical depression, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Restless Leg Syndrome, and can be a side effect of many pharmaceutical drugs.
Power of Prayer
Science has proven that prayer can be an effective stress reducer and can bring about physiological changes in our bodies such as lowering blood pressure and increasing respiration. With in the Hebrew Scriptures we find the word Shalom which is generally translated in our English Bibles as peace. The wonderful Hebrew word means so much more than peace. To learn more read Hebrew Word Study – Shalom and Personal Prayer for Shalom.
What do you do that helps you to sleep well? Please share with us.