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Dreaming of A Good Nights Sleep

Who remembers the days where you fell, delightfully tired, into bed, soft warm covers around you and slept for seven maybe eight solid hours? For many women – that is a loooong time ago. Falling into bed now can mean tossing and turning until two in the morning with a scant 3-4 hours of decent sleep. No wonder we have 'menobrain' – sleep can be hard to come by during and after menopause and lack of sleep will quickly fry a brain. Part of this has to do with hormone and neurotransmitter changes and a fair amount has to do with stress as well... so, what can we do?

What Does Sleep Do?

Sleep provides the opportunity for the brain to:

  • Slow a wide range of processing functions
  • Make melatonin overnight for appetite regulation
  • Lower body temperature which regulates bacteria in the gut
  • Reduce oxidative stress on blood vessels
  • Process and store new information from the day
  • Regulate hormone production
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Reduce the overall total number of heart beats
  • Lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels
  • Regulate neurotransmitter levels
  • Recharge ready for the next day

Blissful Bedtime for Your Brain

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that send messages between neurons, or nerve cells. Some neurotransmitters are excitatory and stimulate activity in the brain, and others are inhibitory and calm brain activity. There are two important inhibitory neurotransmitters – Serotonin and GABA. Both of these are important for helping the brain calm down ready to sleep – and to stay asleep. But, it’s not just about having enough of the calming chemicals, we also need to make sure we don’t have too many of the excitatory chemicals running around. High levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate will make it hard to sleep. When stress levels are high, the two neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine are firing like crazy in the brain and this can make sleep very difficult.

We have some ideas on how to manage stress in our blog on stress, so for now let’s look at how to make sure you have enough serotonin and GABA to help you sleep. First off – serotonin, one of our happy chemicals. Well, it turns out that estrogen is necessary for making serotonin. As estrogen levels decline at menopause and beyond, well, it’s going to make it harder to make serotonin. We do hear from many of our customers that Silky Peach Cream which contains estriol does help them sleep better. This drop in happy chemical serotonin is also part of the reason why women can begin to experience more depression and anxiety during perimenopause and after menopause.

Lack Of Sleep Can Make You GAGA (so use GABA)

Next – GABA. Oh GABA – it is our happy chemical that helps us to get that deep relaxing out breath - helps us calm down and find the joys in life. Progesterone is the secret weapon here. Progesterone knocks on the door of a GABA receptor and says “hey - make some GABA”. Because progesterone levels drop in perimenopause it’s not surprising that women start finding it harder to sleep - GABA levels have also dropped. By the time women are post menopause, they make very little progesterone and therefore their GABA levels will have dropped as well.

What About Melatonin?

Melatonin is produced at night, when it is dark. Melatonin is the hormone that sends the signal to calm down many of the body processes and get the brain and body ready for the nightly fast during sleep. Melatonin levels decrease appetite, and this is why it’s possible to go for several hours overnight without getting hungry. Melatonin requires dark! This is why it is SO critical for your bedroom to be dark as dark can be. If your bedroom is not dark, melatonin levels won’t rise, you won’t settle to an easy sleep and will likely wake during the night. If you don’t have blackout curtains – NOW is the time to get them. If you wake in the night, with low melatonin, chances are higher that you might wander off to the fridge for a light, well, lightish nighttime snack. While that carbohydrate might make you sleepy in the short term, it will also add a mass of blood sugar that you body has to shunt off to store as fat. Nighttime snacking will put on weight, it just will.

The Role of Hormones on Sleep

Both estrogen and progesterone have an important influence on sleep, especially progesterone. Progesterone plays a role in making sure the calming neurotransmitter GABA is in plentiful supply. With insufficient estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, GABA, melatonin, it’s no wonder that trying to get some sleep is a nightly challenge.

Silky Peach estriol cream will add some estrogen to the mix to help with serotonin levels. Vibrant Third Progesterone cream will help with GABA production (and a whole lot more). If anxiety and restlessness really has its grip on you – it could be time to use the Chaos Calmer as well. Its combination of GABA, magnesium and l-theanine will help calm not just your brain, but your body as well. Chaos Calmer is a great over all cream that can quickly help you relax, get into a better frame of mind to settle.

Ten Tips for Sweet Sleep

1. Make sure your bedroom is your sleep-room and that it is DARK in there.

2. Avoid watching TV in the bedroom after around 9.30. Watch TV elsewhere and reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimacy.

3. Avoid the light from your phone or laptop or tablet when you want to settle to sleep – it does excite your brain, providing light which slows down melatonin production.

4. Keep the bedroom cool, with layers of blankets you can pull on as your body cools down over night

5. Make sure the bed is comfortable. A queen sized bed should be large enough for two peaceful and quiet sleepers; a king size may be better is one person is restless.

6. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bed. Yes, alcohol will increase GABA in the short term, but it also increases glutamate, an excitatory chemical, in the longer term. While you may fall asleep just fine, it’s likely you will wake later as the glutamate surges and starts pinging around your brain. You will also need to get up to pee.

7. Avoid caffeine after lunch.

8. Try to eat no later than 7 pm.

9. Try and stick to a regular routine of waking and bedtime – even on weekends and holidays, a regular schedule keeps a daily pattern of melatonin production.

10. Adjust your lifestyle; think about making sure you get a daily workout in, lots of fresh air, and trying meditation before bed - all things that have been found to have an impact on sleep quality!