You aren’t the only one who’s awake in the wee hours. One likely culprit is hormones. Estrogen and progesterone both help regulate sleep, and both drop during menopause. According to a 2007 National Sleep Foundation survey, almost half of women age 40-64 report having sleep problems, which may be the first symptom of menopause to show up and the last to leave, unfortunately.
Other causes include stress (this is prime time for dealing with volatile teenagers, aging parents, and exacting bosses) and other physical issues, like having to urinate more frequently in the middle of the night.
Here are a few things you can try.
- Exercise regularly, but save the rigorous exercise for morning or afternoon. Take a stroll or do some light stretching in the evening.
- Go outside for a while every day. Natural light helps cue your body’s wake and sleep cycle.
- Avoid naps. If you must take a nap, do it before 3:00 and keep it to under 20 minutes.
- Cut down on caffeine in any form, nicotine, and alcohol, which will may help you fall asleep but is likely to wake you up once you start to metabolize it. Caffeine and alcohol may also trigger hot flashes, which interfere with sleep.
- Don’t eat big meals or a heavy snack before bedtime.
- Create an evening routine that signals to your body it’s time to wind down. Shut off electronic devices, take a bath, read a book, or drink a cup of herbal tea.
- Design a sleep-friendly bedroom–one that’s cool (not cold), dark, and quiet, with a bed that is comfortable.
If none of those work, talk to your doctor, who may suggest homeopathic solutions (many of which haven’t undergone clinical testing, but work for some people) or, in severe cases, something stronger to help you break the insomnia cycle.