Having been an Ob/Gyn in solo practice for years, I am a notoriously bad sleeper. Add in menopause, and BAM! Even worse! The associated sleep issues nearly took me down completely and almost wrecked my health. I was always tired – and frustrated. But I also knew there had to be a way to get a good night’s rest … and to feel well rested and rejuvenated on waking, feeling like myself again.
Sleep seemed elusive for years. I had trouble sleeping, not to mention checking on my sleeping children once, twice, even three times a night. Night sweats made my body feel like a steam vent and kept me tossing and turning. And when I woke up, I felt tired.
Like so many of my menopausal and peri-menopausal patients, my levels of estrogen and progesterone were fluctuating which impacts breathing, stress reaction, mood, body temperature, and our circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle, which is covered in my blog Reset Your Body’s Natural Clock). The net effect is trouble falling asleep, restless sleep, waking up repeatedly at night, waking up too early in the morning… or all the above.
I have always been a super-busy mom, doctor, and businesswoman. I knew that quality sleep is as important to health as other factors like diet and exercise. My own sleep issues were on the verge of taking me down and wrecking my health.
Strategies to Sleep Better
To help myself and other women, I developed some effective strategies that brought me back to the land of the living (and the sleeping!). If you can’t sleep a whole night or still wake up tired, here are 7 ways to help you reclaim quality sleep:
- Go Keto-Green and dream. What you eat affects your sleep - good or bad. When your diet is filled with sugar and carbohydrates, your sleep can become disturbed. Further, when you combine a high-carb diet with hot flashes, restless legs, heart palpitations, and other menopausal symptoms, your sleep can really suffer. (If hot flashes and night sweats are keeping you awake, please read my blog A Keto-Green Diet Will Help You Naturally Cool Off.)
My Keto-Green Diet is low in carbs and therefore balances blood sugar levels and optimizes hormones to improve sleep and reset your circadian rhythm. It is also an alkaline diet, known to promote restful sleep. Sip some of my Easy Tomato Soup or my Bone Broth in the early evening. Both are high in alkalizing minerals, effective for helping you get your beauty rest.
- Try natural sleep aids. I routinely recommend a number of supplements to clients who suffer from insomnia, hormone imbalances, or mood issues. One of my favorites is bioidentical progesterone, applied as a cream or taken orally. Progesterone produces metabolites that work on sleep. You should see an immediate improvement in sleep, mood, and other symptoms.
Oftentimes, improving sleep leads to changes in other body systems due to increased hormonal healing. You might also find that you are dreaming for the first time in a long time—a sign of restorative sleep.
I also recommend supplementing with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which is then converted into serotonin and then into melatonin. Higher melatonin levels dictate better depth and quality of sleep. 5-HTP is best taken on an empty stomach prior to bedtime. Typical dosages of 5-HTP can be from 50 to 200 milligrams. Take it with vitamin B6 for best results.
Additionally, you can also take 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin, preferably in the early to mid-evening, around sunset. Most people find that works better than at bedtime. I also supplement with magnesium L-threonate (found in my Better Brain & Sleep Formula) for a great night’s sleep. Magnesium is so important for restorative sleep. Check out my Couch Talk, The Importance of Magnesium, with Ian Clark.
Turn off electronics by 9:00 p.m. (or, preferably, by sunset). Staring at computer and smartphone screens well into the night can disrupt your circadian rhythm, melatonin production, and thus your sleep. At times when I can’t avoid doing this, I use an app on my computer called F.lux, which at least reduces the blue light on my screen at a certain preprogrammed time. This is important because blue light tells our eyes that it isn’t nighttime, so then the body doesn’t produce melatonin. You can also purchase blue-light-blocking eyeglasses, as well as blue-light-blocking screens for iPhones (try products from True Dark and Primal Hacker - use code dranna for 10% off your next purchase), and keep your phones and digital clocks in the bathroom (to block out any LED lights and reduce EMF exposure).
Stop the stimulants. Caffeine, sugar, and alcohol taken in the evening will keep you awake. Although alcoholic beverages can make you feel sleepy initially, alcohol ultimately disrupts sleep cycles, especially REM (dreaming) sleep—the type that helps refresh our bodies.
Pursue oxytocin-boosting activities. Hug your loved ones, play with your pets, enjoy sex and orgasms, build lasting friendships – these are all actions that stimulate the release of oxytocin. This “bonding” hormone has a calming effect. It leaves you feeling tranquil and loving, and certainly that helps your path to sleep.
Create an environment conducive to sleep. Your bedroom is your “sleep haven.” Keep the temperature at a comfortable level. Research shows that a cool (65°F), pitch-dark room improves sleep and reduces hot flashes. Use your bedroom for sleeping and lovemaking rather than for watching TV or using your computer in bed. Decorate with colors you find soothing. Finally, keep your bedroom free of clutter so that it is a true place of rest and you can relax when you slip into bed. Clutter increases stress by provoking feelings of being overwhelmed and crowded. Decluttering creates a calm, serene setting and gives you a sense of peace and control.
- Establish a healthy nighttime ritual. This might involve calming activities like a warm bath with lavender essential oils, sipping some chamomile or nighttime herbal tea, reading, or listening to music, to make it easier to fall asleep. Light stretching to ease strain on your muscles and allow them to relax. Meditation and deep breathing help keep your hormones flowing naturally and support your natural rhythms.
For further help on sleep and other health matters read chapter 10 of The Hormone Fix (now available as an audio book!).
When you get proper sleep, your body gets an all-important time to rest and ready itself for a new day. Many wonderful things ensue:
- Your skin regenerates
- Your blood pressure drops
- Vital functions, such as the beating of your heart, rate of your breathing, and urine output, reach their lowest points during sleep
- Your brain uses sleep to cleanse toxins
- You wake up refreshed and ready to enjoy life at its fullest
Looking for a recipe to help you relax? My Easy Tomato Soup recipe is the perfect comfort food and is high in alkalinizing minerals, effective for helping you get your beauty rest.
Easy Tomato Soup
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large stalk celery, diced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cans (28 ounces each) Italian plum tomatoes, diced or crushed
- 12 ounces bone broth
- Heat olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, celery, and salt. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pepper and more salt to taste.
- For a creamier, more refined soup, use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the saucepan.
- Swirl in a little more olive oil just before serving, if desired. You can garnish with your favorite chopped fresh herbs—basil, thyme, flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, and so forth.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS