How to reset your sleep patterns, cortisol, and wake up earlier, and use sleep to reset your hormone health…for good!
Let’s talk about Improved Sleep Hygiene
I was lucky enough to be one of those people who took a good night’s sleep for granted. I never gave it a second thought. Starting college, traveling, and going to bed the night before my wedding…sleep disruption was never a concern for me. Sleeping through the night was a given my whole life until having a newborn; and even then I always went right back to sleep after each feeding. So twenty years later and about one year into my healing journey, when hormonal fluctuations led to waking up several times each night, I was caught off guard. It was confusing. It was frustrating. It began to interfere with my daily functioning.
I’d lie there in bed feeling so helpless, restless, and longing for the restorative sleep I once knew. My quality of life was suffering. There were times I’d arrive at the preschool where I worked and then realize I didn’t even remember parts of my drive there! All-day long I would dread bed-time. It was time to do something…
Dr. Cope recommended a sleep mask. LUNYA has lovely silk ones that fit snugly and comfortably. Putting a cotton-ball sprinkled with lavender oil inside my pillow-case became a nightly practice at her suggestion as well.
And perhaps most profound of all, Dr. Cope taught me to think of laying my head down to rest in a safe place as a sacred act. “The bed is for sleep and sex.”
This toolbox of tips was so powerful. But for me, as I approached perimenopause, it would prove to not be enough.
Help from Bio-Identicals
After a few months of telling myself that my sleep would improve on its own with these tips, I was finally ready to try the oral progesterone (bio-identical hormone replacement therapy) that Dr. Cope had mentioned on more than one occasion. She referred me to a medical doctor who could write the prescription. This natural form of Progesterone acts as a sedative as it helps to balance levels in relation to estrogen. It also does wonders for minimizing hot flashes and takes the edge off of anxious feelings. In just a couple of weeks, I woke up less often, and restorative sleep returned for me. Now, I frequently sleep 6-7 hours straight.
Dr. Cope taught me a few other tricks that continue to help with my sleep…magnesium powder helps to soothe the nervous system. A supplement called Serene Sleep is a natural sleep aid that helps me fall asleep faster and rest better. I often use that, along with Dr. Cope’s Sleep Easy herbal formula, on my prescribed 5-day Progesterone break each month. And she has a formula specifically for menopause.
Dr. Cope also recommended waking up each morning and staring at the sun for 5 minutes, being mindful of your eyes’ sensitivity to light. You may need to start with one minute and build up from there.
I have learned to be careful to minimize screen time and use blue light glasses in the evening hours to allow my brain to begin to settle as bedtime approaches. Sleeping with the room cooler can make a big difference for those of us in perimenopause. I have been totally comfortable with a 59-degree temperature in the bedroom while my poor husband freezes. And sleeping with next to nothing on can go a long way on multiple fronts! Finally, developing a personal bedtime routine can become a ritual that facilitates a more peaceful night’s sleep.
I have learned that when I’m sleeping well, my emotions and my appetite are more easily regulated. My cortisol level stays more constant so my insulin level does not fluctuate. And, I notice much less inflammation in my body.
I wake up in the mornings rested more often than not. My family is no longer afraid to ask me, “How’d you sleep?”! And I have clearer thinking, more energy, and greater ability to be fully present at work and with those who are dear to me. And while I no longer focus on sleep and worry about it during the day, I am thankful for each and every good night’s sleep.
I now have empathy when a friend or family member struggles with sleep. And I can share tips from Dr. Cope’s toolbox with them…just one of the many unexpected benefits of working with a naturopathic doctor who truly cares about all of ME! She was ready to meet me where I was and has stuck with me through all the ups and downs. While sleep was my first major hurdle on my journey, It has definitely not been the last learning opportunity for me. To learn more about Dr. Cope’s support for the perimenopausal transition, read her Menopause Supplements article here.
Sleep Recommendations from Doctor Cope: