When a woman comes into my office telling me she can’t sleep, I take her complaint seriously. Without enough sleep we’re not only just tired during the day, we’re less able to concentrate, more prone to have accidents, and – when the sleep problem is ongoing – at increased risk of gaining weight and getting sick.
Besides all the usual stressors in life and the medical problems that can throw off sleep, being a woman has unique challenges that can sneak up on us during different phases of our life. Maybe nothing specific has changed, but things that didn’t throw your game off before are now ruining your sleep.
And these sleep disrupters could be as common as your monthly menstrual cycle – whether it’s the PMS phase or cramping during your period. Or the problems could be from a buildup of sleepless nights during pregnancy or taking care of that cute baby. Sleep problems also can begin in menopause.
While sleep difficulties can start during these phases of life, they can also be related to health conditions. Often, it is a combination of the two. And then the sleep problems can take a life of their own. To really help sleep problems, you need to take action on all fronts. Have a conversation with your doctor about any medical issues that might be to blame and get treatment. Don’t let the sleep problems go unchecked.
Also, work on implementing lifestyle changes to get back on track with your sleeping. The fancy term for that is “sleep hygiene” – which literally means cleaning up everything to do with sleep. There’s lots you can do, but here are a few easy changes you can make in the bedroom:
1. Keep it clutter free. You want to train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep – not work or household chores. So, no working in bed – move the bills and office work to another room. And no laundry piles in the room. Put anything that might stress you out in another room to be tackled the next day. And make it a practice to get in and out of bed at the same time every day. No lounging in bed.
2. Keep it quiet. This may seem obvious, but take a moment and assess your situation. Maybe you need a white noise app on your phone to distract you from the outside traffic, the loud neighbor, the pets…. I’ve used ear plugs when my babies were young and it was hubby’s turn to take night duty. And quiet includes turning the TV off.
3. Keep it dark. Our bodies were meant to sleep at night – when it’s dark. So don’t let artificial light from the hallway, your clock, your partner’s cell phone keep you up. Adjust what you can – like putting up black out curtains. I always travel with an eye mask.
And no TV or Netflix in bed, either. The light and the noise will keep you up. You may feel relaxed but your body can end up getting distracted from falling asleep.
4. Keep it cool. You’ll sleep better with a lower temperature. In the summer, switch to a lighter comforter to help you keep cool.
Prepping your bedroom is really all about eliminating the sensory overload that’s so common in our life during the day. Your bedroom should be a cool, quiet dark haven for sleep. And once you’re rested, you may have enough energy for another bedroom activity: Sex.