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More Zzzs please: a menopause sleep seminar

by Margery Gass | Sep 25, 2012
When a woman’s sleep is diminished, so is her quality of life. It may even be a risk factor for future diseases and breast cancer recurrence after menopause, according to a new sleep/breast cancer study. No matter what the cause of the disturbance -- night sweats, feelings of midlife anxiety -- getting 6 to 9 hours of sleep each night is never easy.

Improving sleep routine is the key in treating sleep disturbances:
  • Maintain an environment that is conducive to sleep. Think quiet, cool, and dark.
  • Limit use of the bedroom to sleep and sexual activities.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Relaxation-inducing CDs or meditation can help you fall asleep.
  • Abide by the 15-minute rule. Those who don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes should get up, leave the bedroom to engage in relaxing activities elsewhere, and return to bed when drowsy.
  • Follow a sleep routine. Try to wake up and go to bed about the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Wake up with the sun, if possible. Sunlight helps set the body’s biological clock.
  • Bring back the bedtime snack. While a large, heavy meal before bed can interfere with sleep, a light snack with protein and carbohydrates is recommended. A glass of warm milk may also induce sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine throughout the entire day, not just during the evening.  
  • Exercise. Daily exercise may help ease insomnia for many women, but strenuous exercise close to bedtime can have the opposite effect.
When lifestyle changes fail to alleviate sleep disturbances, a clinician should be consulted to discuss other options and to rule out medical causes of disrupted sleep. Women with serious sleep disturbances may benefit from referral to a sleep center.
For more information about sleep disorders, check out the 70-page online booklet, Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  

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