Several years ago I had a big problem with insomnia. I could usually fall asleep OK (from exhaustion) but every night, regular as clockwork, I was wide awake for at least 2 hours, trying not to look at the clock and my mind busy with a thousand thoughts (or sometimes just the one thought on repeat).
There are many things that can contribute to insomnia. Too many coffees or energy drinks during the day will keep you awake. Alcohol in the evening can make you relaxed and sleepy but then wake you up in the early hours.
What else is going on?
If you're a woman in your 40's, then there could be more going on. Are you experiencing other health problems that seem unrelated to your insomnia? It's not uncommon for women in their 40's to experience a sudden downwards spiral in their health, often accompanied by insomnia. You can read Vanessa's story here.
In our 40's we can experience a drop in progesterone, which is one of the hormones that our body makes as part of our menstrual cycle. Progesterone helps to calm our stress response and when we don't have enough of it, we can experience anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Women in their 40's can be shocked to find that even though they are experiencing the same amount of stress as they were only a few years earlier, they have trouble coping with it in the same way. This can be a common time for women to encounter physical and emotional symptoms of stress for the first time. One woman described this feeling to me as being on a merry-go-round and not being able to get off.
Is progesterone the culprit?
If a drop in progesterone is what's causing your insomnia, you might find that your lack of sleep is at it's worst just before your period is due. Because of the lower progesterone, you may also be experiencing much heavier than usual periods, worse PMS, hair loss and even seemly unrelated health problems such as digestive problems, constipation, fibroids and worsening allergic responses.
What can you do?
There are several things that are important if you want to increase your progesterone and improve your sleep:
1. Manage your stress levels! Make looking after yourself a priority by resting when you need to, switching to a less intense type of exercise and meditating.
2. Cut back on coffee and alcohol because they don't just affect your sleep, they affect digestion, healthy gut bacteria and adrenal hormones, all of which need to be addressed to maximise your health.
3. Eat nourishing foods. Magnesium rich foods are important for coping with stress and improving sleep, so add more green leafy vegetables, eggs, legumes, almonds and cashews to your diet. Protein and healthy fats are also important for making hormones, so eating a small amount of protein and healthy fats at every meal is beneficial.
Work with me
A naturopath can discuss and assess all of your symptoms with you and help to get you sleeping again. It is important to assess your health holistically, including liver and thyroid function, digestion, mood and nutritional requirements.
Herbal remedies are very effective for managing and supporting women's health and can work surprisingly quickly to regulate hormones, improve sleep and improve PMS or heavy bleeding.
I love supporting and helping women who are struggling with their sleep and their health, so please contact me for an appointment.
B. Health Sc. (Naturopathy)