Menopause and Sleep

Menopause and Sleep

posted on Monday, February 6th, 2012

Women in the middle of menopause often have problems both getting to sleep and staying asleep. They fall into bed exhausted. Then they have a hot flash as they get cozy and almost asleep. Once asleep they wake up again, in a hot flash. Their sleep has once more been disrupted.

There is no single solution. The medical profession recommends Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as the most ‘traditional’ solution to hot flashes, emotional swings, and disturbed sleep associated with Menopause. But some women are not good candidates for HRT or just prefer not to go that route.

An alternative treatment that many women find helpful is the use of Black Cohosh. It comes as a single supplement or in combination with other ingredients. The daytime formula can help with mood swings and hot flashes. The nighttime formula can help with sleeplessness and night sweats.

There are a few other simple things that can help. Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing to bed. If possible, wear natural fibers like cotton. Keep the bedroom cool and well ventilated. Use cotton sheets and a minimum of blankets on your bed. Again, natural fibers are best. Avoid caffeine, especially after lunchtime.

Interested in more information? Try WebMD’s article about Sleep and Menopause, and consult your doctor or alternative healthcare practitioner.

The Delayed Effects of Caffeine

The Delayed Effects of Caffeine

posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Ever found yourself heading to the coffee maker just to get through the night shift? That middle of the night energy boost could very well end up “helping” you through the day as well.

A new study conducted at the University of Montreal (and recently published in Sleep Medicine, the official journal of the World Association of Sleep Medicine and International Pediatric Sleep Association) indicates that caffeine can have very delayed effects, according to its lead author Julie Carrier. She and her team gave a group of people caffeine three hours before letting them sleep, and noticed that the participants slept up to 50% less. The effects varied predictably with age, as well — “The older you get, the more affected your sleep will be by coffee,” Carrier noted. And in both older and younger test groups, caffeine had a detrimental effect not only on sleep duration, but also on sleep efficiency, slow-wave sleep (SWS), and REM sleep.

And even those who think they can handle it might be affected without knowing it. As Carrier points out, “We all know someone who claims to sleep like a baby after drinking an espresso…. Although they may not notice it, their sleep will not be as deep and will likely be more perturbed.”

So the next time you reach for a Starbucks when your shift wanes into the wee hours, think again. You could reap the consequences long afterwards.

Surviving the Time Change

Surviving the Time Change

posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It’s hard to believe that that time of year is here again — the end of Daylight Savings Time. It isn’t that difficult to set your clocks back an hour, but your body’s circadian rhythm (its internal clock) is a bit harder to train. Here are some tips on how to do that, courtesy of this article by Dakshana Bascaramurty in The Globe and Mail’s Life section.

flip the switch as soon as you get up

Getting as much light as possible as soon as you wake up is possibly the best way to help your body adjust, according to James MacFarlane, director of education at the Toronto Sleep Institute. It signals your brain that the night is over. Sunshine is best, but even artificial light will help you make the adjustment.

eat regularly

Just as light sends a signal to your brain, telling it to wake up, eating signals your brain to wake up as well. There’s a reason they call it break-fast. “It’s your body’s cue that the long fast is over,” according to Dr. MacFarlane. And be careful — eating late can still send those signals, confusing your circadian rhythm.

pay attention to your kids

Children are much more in tune with their bodies than most adults, who are used to regulating their lives according to clocks and watches. They will sleep until their circadian rhythm tells them that they’ve gotten enough rest. So take a cue from them, and give your body the sleep it needs.

obey your alarm clock

At the same time, if you need an alarm clock, don’t succumb to the snooze button temptation. “It’s this emergency signal hauling you out of the deepest stage of sleep,” according to Dr. MacFarlane. Studies have indicated that waking up to an alarm clock can raise your blood pressure and elevate your heart rate — so hitting snooze multiple times simply puts your body through this shock more times than is necessary. And besides, says Dr. MacFarlane, “if you aren’t waking up before the alarm, you are sleep-deprived.”

skip the nightcap

While it could help you drift off to sleep, it will almost certainly wake you up a few hours later.

The full version of the article, including information about Proactive Sleep’s iPhone/iPod Touch alarm clock app, is available here.

Your Circadian Rhythm and Blood Sugar Control

Your Circadian Rhythm and Blood Sugar Control

posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009

A new study conducted by a Stanford University professor has shown that our circadian rhythm — our body’s inner clock that regulates when and how long we sleep — is “tightly entwined” with blood sugar control. Indeed, the study “shows that daily fluctuations in powerful hormones called glucocorticoids directly synchronize the biological clock as an integral part of our mechanism for regulating blood sugar.”

The study was conducted by senior study author Brian Feldman, MD, PhD, who is an assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and practices at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “The most surprising part of our findings is that our internal biologic rhythms are embedded directly into another pathway, one that is essential to regulate metabolism,” he noted.

According to a press release dated October 5th,

The new findings give the first in vivo evidence of a direct link between glucocorticoid hormones and genes that regulate our biological clock. The research may eventually help doctors reduce disabling side effects of glucocorticoid drugs such as prednisone, Feldman said. The work could also help diabetics control their blood sugar levels and may shed light on why night-shift workers are at risk for obesity and diabetes.

The study will be published online Oct. 5 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Feldman worked previously at the University of California-San Francisco, where much of the research was conducted.

Interested? Read the rest of the press release here.