Did you know that lack of sleep is a form of torture? The use of sleep deprivation has been recognized by the international human rights framework as a method of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Long term effects of poor sleep include increased anxiety, poor cognitive performance, poor memory, increased irritability, and even a disruption to our immune system. And here we are as we approach menopause, faced with this form of torture on a regular basis.
I remember when I first entered perimenopause (unbeknownst to me that this was the beginning of the menopause journey) and found myself waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. I would then spend the next few hours tossing and turning, before finally falling back to sleep – sometimes only to repeat the process a few hours later. At the time, I had no idea that poor sleep was going to be one of my biggest challenges during menopause. Turns out, lack of sleep is torture for many women during this time! I would go to bed each night more anxious about waking up, fearing the middle of the night. Sometimes I would look at my phone, play solitare on it, check facebook, even shop on Amazon. I kept a good book next to the bed (though this became more difficult to put down) or sometimes I would go to the guest room and watch tv in the middle of the night.
The effects of my sleeplessness permeated all aspects of my life. It became difficult to focus at work. I didn't get everything done on time and even missed some important deadlines. My emotions were closer to the edge. As a result I was short tempered with my husband and kids and became more frustrated as the days went on. These cycles of waking in the middle of the night often lasted for weeks and then I would get a good sleep one night. But that one night was just a tease, because the trend never lasted long.
The impact of poor sleep on our mental and physical health is well documented. When we don’t get enough sleep, our anxiety levels increase, our cognitive performance suffers, our memory is impacted, and we become more irritable. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a disruption in our immune system. All of this is especially concerning as we approach menopause, when our bodies are already going through so many changes.
If you’re struggling with sleep during menopause, know that you’re not alone. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your sleep habits and find relief from this frustrating symptom of menopause. And in the meantime, try to practice some self-care and give yourself grace – you’re going through a lot! Keep following this week for more information about sleep!