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Sleepless in Seattle, and Everywhere Else

J.B.

If you’re like me, you love a good night’s sleep. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating. But, for many women, it’s often elusive.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “More than half of American women (60%) say they only get a good night’s sleep a few nights per week or less and 67% say they frequently experience a sleep problem.”

Sleep deprivation is not just a matter of feeling tired.  Sleeplessness can affect your ability to think clearly, it can make you irritable (as if bloating and cramps weren’t enough to make you cranky), and it can affect your health too.  Sufferers of chronic sleep deprivation risk high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Insomnia during menstruation is most often attributed to hormonal changes, particularly estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin.  Hot flashes, night sweats, and vivid dreams or nightmares can accompany these hormonal changes. 

So there you are – not only are you having to contend with bloating, cramping, and irritability, but you’re sleep deprived to boot!  You have menstruation-induced insomnia and the insomnia is making the other menstrual symptoms tougher to deal with.  Now what? 

A number of women have found some non-pharmaceutical remedies for insomnia to be helpful.  Among them are: 

  • Try to get at least ½ hour of exercise each day. I know this seems an impossible dream for those of us with packed schedules, but you don’t necessarily have to hit the gym or keep a punishing exercise regimen.  It can be something as simple as a walk outside.   Many of us spend hours and hours every day with their attention fixed two feet away on a computer screen, so while you take your walk, notice things at different distances.
  • Have a warm shower or a nice, hot soaky bath before bed. 
  • Calcium and magnesium can be powerful natural sleep aids. Magnesium is a natural relaxant that helps to deactivate adrenaline, and calcium is helpful in the body’s production of melatonin.  A number of foods such as dark leafy greens and soybeans contain both.  Or, you could get a powdered calcium and magnesium preparation at your local health food store that you just add boiling water to.
  • Warm milk is reputed to contain tryptophan that the body converts to the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin (maybe Grandma was right about warm milk).
  • Chamomile tea has long been used to reduce inflammation, decrease anxiety, and treat insomnia. It is reported to elevate levels of glycine, an amino acid.
  • Avoid the obvious things containing caffeine like coffee, chocolate, black and green teas, and sodas. Yes, I know it can be hard to resist the temptation of the apparent boost from that extra cup of coffee when you’re sleep-deprived, but don’t do it.   Caffeine is probably making it harder to sleep.  (And BTW, “decaffeinated coffee” doesn’t mean that it has no caffeine; it means it has significantly less caffeine).
  • Try reading yourself to sleep with a good book (but not one that’s so good you can’t put it down).
  • Keep to a sleep schedule all through the week with a regular bedtime and wake-up time. That can be tough to do, I know, and you may not be able to do that 100% of the time but keep to your schedule as closely as you can.

A good night’s sleep goes a long way in keeping you healthy and able to deal with everyday life and menstrual symptoms.

Looking for a natural way to help minimize menstrual discomfort? Try NannoPads.

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