“ I can sleep when I’m DEAD”, so many people claim, but the truth is we really need sleep to survive and to make life the best life that it can be. Sleep according to Merriam Webster is a state in which the body’s consciousness is suspended and the body is restored. According to my definition, the body is similar to a computer, it requires a reboot and update every now and then, and we do that when we sleep!
Sleep plays a vital role in health, immune function, metabolism and memory amongst other things. While insufficient sleep has been shown to contribute to cardiac issues, diabetes and obesity, sufficient sleep can decrease chronic pain and improve memory and cognition just to name a few. When I was a little girl, my mom insisted that I take a nap everyday and guess what? I thought this was just “quiet time” for my mom but turned out to be a sleeping behavior that I was developing and became a habit that followed me throughout college. As I entered graduate school and actually began working in my career, naps have been far and few between. Can I tell a difference in naps vs. sleep deprivation? Of course I can, but when life comes at you from several directions, a nap can be pushed as far back as bedtime.
Hormones and/or our self-inflicting paranoia of waking up in a scene from a horror movie can influence sleep. The influence of hormones can sometimes be on extreme ends of the spectrum varying from insomnia to extreme tiredness. Sleep deprivation that leads to insomnia inhibits the body from producing hormones and can strongly influence the body by causing night sweats, hot flashes and apnea. Prior to receiving acupuncture (post coming soon), I experienced night sweats that disturbed my sleep. Imagine waking up in a pool of sweat and having to scramble around in the middle of the night to change your nightgown and/or shirt. Acupuncture, along with herbs, has decreased my night sweats and I now experience restful nights. In instances where estrogen is low and there is a increase in basal temperature, melatonin is produced which causes fatigue during the day. I always wondered why I was so tired prior to my menstrual cycle and now I have my answer. Estrogen (associated with restful nights) and progesterone during ovulation leads to a good nights rest because of an increase in serotonin and melatonin. Women with fibroids often experience low estrogen and progesterone levels after ovulation and often lead to a less refreshing slumber. In addition to low hormonal levels and sleepless nights, please keep in mind stress levels; if your occupation, life partner or life in general is causing stress, cortisol levels will increase which will interfere will sleep as well.
I recall the first day of my last menstrual cycle, while laying in bed I wanted to snuggle and sleep, but I remember getting up 3 times with a full sanitary napkin. If I had not been consciously aware of my heavy cycle, I would have slept comfortable through the night and woke with a not so pleasant surprise for my significant other and myself. Can’t you see or feel the embarrassment, “ Good morning babe, umm before you get up, I just wanted to let you know I kind of bled in the bed.”
How can you fix this? How can you count sheep versus losing zzzzs? If losing sleep is because of a heavy menstrual cycle try the following things:
- Try overnight organic sanitary napkins
- Exercise to decrease your menstrual cycle and decrease cortisol level
- Drinking a warm cup of tea to relax you prior to sleeping
- Avoid looking at electrical devices prior to going to sleep
- Find a comfy pair of pjs and socks
If you are losing sleep secondary to hormonal issues:
- Attempt aroma therapy in your room and/or shower to relax your senses and encourage sleep
- Find the source of hormonal imbalance and address it
- Exercise to decrease hormonal levels
- Research alternative methods to establish hormonal balance e.g. acupuncture, meditation, yoni steaming etc.
- Improve progesterone and melatonin levels and reduce stress as a start.
There you have it, sleep is important, so put on your favorite pair of pajamas and REST WELL!