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Sleep, aging and menopause

A good night’s sleep means going to heaven to rest on a beautiful white, soft cloud, without any pressure on our body, without any idea in our head.  It means to clear your head and start again from scratch the next day. Unfortunately, the quality of our sleep seems to diminish with aging and especially during the phases of menopause.

How many hours of sleep do we need

I often remind my client that we are all different from one another, that our needs are unique.

According to the website sommeil.org: for adults between 18 and 64 years old, the average sleep time is between 7 and 9 hours per night. However, some “little sleepers” are satisfied with 6 hours, while “big sleepers” need 10 hours.

The waking-sleeping rhythm prominently marks the daily life of a majority of animals, both invertebrates and humans.

Circadian rhythms are produced by biological clocks, also known as circadian clocks. These clocks operate even in the absence of any external stimulus, under perfectly constant conditions of light and temperature, for weeks or even months at a time.

To describe a biological rhythm that manifests itself only when the organism is exposed to day-night alternation, we speak rather of a nycthemeral rhythm.

The formal study of biological rhythms is called chronobiology. – WIKI HERE

The Circadian Rhythm

A circadian rhythm is a biological rhythm that lasts about 24 hours and has at least one cycle per 24-hour period. The term “circadian”, coined by Franz Halberg, comes from the Latin circa, “around”, and dies, “day”, and literally means cycle that lasts “about a day “2.

Louise Therrien ND

If you were a car… how would one proceed with the oil change if you did not stop the engine.

What happens when we sleep

Sleep consists of approximately 90 minutes cycles that include two types of states: REM sleep and non-REM sleep.

Non-REM sleep consists of 4 phases (or stages): falling asleep, light sleep and two deep sleep phases.

Of all the phases, deep sleep is the most restorative for the body, repairing and regenerating tissues, building bones and muscles and strengthening the immune system.  This period is essential to the proper functioning of our systems because it is at this time that maintenance takes place.

When we take a close look at our body’s circadian cycles, we understand how important restful sleep is to our health.

Louise Therrien ND

The Phases Of Sleep Are As Follow:

Phase 1: Sleep

This is the transition from wakefulness to sleep that occurs at bedtime and in the brief periods of wakefulness during sleep.  This phase makes up between 5% and 10% of sleep time.

Phase 2: Light sleep

Light sleep constitutes between 40% and 50% of sleep time. During this stage, the heart rate is slowed and the body temperature is lowered. There are alternating periods of tension and muscle relaxation.

Phases 3 and 4: deep sleep

These stages represent the deepest sleep (stage 4 being deeper than stage 3) and make up about 10% to 20% of sleep time. It is more difficult to wake up during these stages. Muscles are still toned and movement is possible. Stages 3 and 4 tend to be longer in the first third or half of the night. Their duration is longer following sleep deprivation.

Stage of REM sleep (or REM sleep for Rapid Eye Movement)

During REM sleep, the brain is more active, breathing and heart rate increase and become irregular, the eyes move rapidly (for this reason, this stage is also called Rapid Eye Movement Sleep or REM sleep) and the muscles are relaxed. It is during this stage that the majority of dreams occur.

This stage occurs cyclically throughout the night, alternating with non-REM sleep every 80 to 100 minutes or so. It occurs 4 or 5 times in a night of 8 to 9 hours.

The duration of the REM sleep periods increases during the night to be maximal at the end of the night. The first period typically lasts 10 minutes while the last period can last up to 1 hour.

REM sleep makes up 20% to 25% of sleep time. This proportion is greater during childhood and adolescence. It can account for up to 50% of sleep time in young children.

Waking up after a full night’s sleep is usually from REM sleep.

The factors that influence the quality of Our sleep

The Bed

A good quality mattress adapted to our comfort requirements.  So what is the right combination for a perfect mattress.  Firm – soft – in between.  On the net we are bombarded with information about this, but it is mainly companies that want to sell one.  Do we absolutely have to spend a phenomenal amount of money to buy our dream mattress?

Questions To Ask yourself When You Shop For A Mattress

  • What size
  • What type (foam or springs)
  • Firm or soft
  • With or without base
  • I sleep alone or not
  • What is the ideal material for me (mousse – gel)
  • Trial period and warranty.

I insist on the trial period because the purchase of a mattress is an investment in your health.  If your new mattress doesn’t suit you, don’t hesitate to return it and try another one with a different combination of materials, etc.

Memory foams are very fashionable. The main advantage of foam mattresses is that they absorb the weight of the body and mould perfectly to it for perfect support. Thus, they do not apply any pressure on the back, unlike spring mattresses.

A bed that doesn’t crack: ideally your bed should be completely quiet and solid.

Room Temperature

A temperature that is too high or too low in the bedroom can disturb sleep: it is harder to fall asleep, the night is restless or you wake up too early.  The ideal bedroom temperature should be between 16 and 21 °C (60.8 and 69.8 F). Most of us sleep better at a temperature around 18°C (64.4 F). In general, women prefer a warmer environment but not during the menopause of course.  This is also the case for thin men compared to overweight men.

Pourcentage of Humidity In The Room

It is estimated that the humidity level in a house should be between 50 and 60%.  It goes without saying that the humidity level can change with the seasons.  For example, if you heat your home with wood (fireplace – slow-burning stove), the humidity level in your home will be very low, so you should consider using a humidifier.

Over time, exposure to low humidity can dry out and inflame the mucous membranes lining the respiratory tract. When this natural barrier no longer works properly, it increases the risk of colds, flu and other infections. In addition, under low humidity conditions, some viruses can survive longer, further increasing the risk of infection.

On the other hand, too high a level will encourage the development of allergies to mould and dust mites. In the presence of fungus, humidity, dust mites in large quantities, these allergies will then lead to respiratory problems and diseases such as asthma, bronchitis… as well as other diseases such as conjunctivitis, rhinitis… Joint problems such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatism are also favoured by humidity.

The Bedding

We have easy access to a multitude of bedding in a variety of fabrics that all have their own distinct properties.

According to the site Matelas Bonheur here is a summary:

Quality of sheets: As a general rule, we talk a lot about the number of threads per square inch to determine the quality of a sheet. It was determine that good quality fabric should be above 200 threads and higher end quality above 400 threads. Generally speaking, the denser and more thread count sheets are, the more wear-resistant, soft, and less likely to pilling.  The type of weave is also a criterion to consider. Weaving is the way the threads are interwoven to form the fabric.

Which fabrics should I choose for my sheets?

Here are the main fabrics that make up the sheets, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

100% cotton: We like it for its softness and comfort, as well as its practicality. It is ideal all year round, because it absorbs moisture and takes body temperature well. Its defect is the crumple of the fabric.

Combed or brushed cotton: Exactly the same as cotton, but the additional processing step, combing, removes the shorter fibres, giving the fabric a softer look.

Egyptian cotton: Made from Egyptian cotton seeds, this fabric is of high quality and very resistant despite its sometimes fragile appearance due to its softness.

Bamboo: Bamboo, like cotton, is a fabric made of natural fibers that wicks moisture away from the body and breathes well at night. Its antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties make it an ideal choice for people with sensitive skin.

Polyester: If you’re willing to sacrifice a little comfort, polyester is a very durable and easy-care choice.

Some sheets will be made of a blend of several fibres. The advantages and disadvantages of the different fibres are then combined into a single fabric.

The best way to determine what is right for you is still to try it out.

Tools To Improve The Quality Of Our Sleep

If we could just lie in our super comfortable bed and immediately fall into a deep sleep for 8 hours straight.

Unfortunately, this is not what happens for many of us.  When we have trouble falling asleep or waking up at night, an uncontrollable flow of thoughts invades us.  We replay the events of the day over and over again and already plan the next day.

To fall asleep peacefully, we have to clear our head.  Think of nothing.  This is sometimes very difficult to do and some people cannot achieve this state of peacefulness at all. They sleep for a few hours, wake up and start thinking about the next day or any other subject over which they have no control at 2 o’clock in the morning.  The result is a lack of recuperative sleep and health problems.

Louise Therrien ND
Louise Therrien ND
Louise Therrien
Louise Therrien ND
Louise Therrien ND

Meditation

Regular practice of meditation, both during the day and in the evening, helps to calm the mind and to find sleep more easily and durably.  Meditating allows one to take a break from these thoughts by keeping one’s attention on something else (a pleasant landscape, a sound, etc…) to really relax and thus fall asleep more easily.

There are several types of meditation: primordial sound, Vipassana, Zazen, Metta, Kundalani, Chakras, Tonglen. Each of them for different specificities for different results.  There is no better type of meditation, it is the regular practice that counts. 

Breathing exercise

The deep breathing exercises simply consist of taking note of our breathing, focusing all our attention on the rhythm we impose on it, and clearing our mind of all other thoughts and distractions.

The energetic power carried by the oxygen circulating in our lungs, heart and blood could become the first vector to transform our health, our body and therefore our life. The majority of people on earth do not actually breathe, we only use air to survive.

In traditional Chinese medicine, breathing is related to the element metal, in particular to the meridian of the lungs which is connected to the four other elements: earth, water, fire, wood.  Lack of breathing impacts the other meridians and causes increasing emotional imbalances. This is why conscious breathing is a wonderful way to regulate these emotions, to center ourselves and to regain our unity.  – Didier Penissard Personal Development Trainer and Author

Alchemical breathing is a connected breathing technique, meaning that the inhalation and exhalation are connected to each other, so that they form a single breath.

The very action of breathing is innately unconscious and instantaneous.

We Disconnect EVERYTHING

In the bedroom there are no electronic devices in its place, not even the TV!

You’ve probably already heard about the negative effects of using electronic devices before going to sleep, if only because the standard light emitted by these devices is called “blue light”. Blue light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies it’s time to sleep.

If you use your iPhone as an alarm clock, turn off the Wi-Fi function and turn it to airplane mode.

Caffeine Consumption

Some people will have no side effects if they consume caffeine in the afternoon or even in the evening.  However, others feel the stimulus of this substance almost immediately after the first cup in the morning.

The scientific literature clearly demonstrates that caffeine alters the quality of sleep, but studies suggest that a tolerance to caffeine can develop over time. In addition, sleep gradually changes as we age, and it seems to become more sensitive to external and internal pressures. On the other hand, caffeine has increased sleep latency, stage 1 percentages and nocturnal arousals for all groups, while reducing sleep efficiency and total sleep time. – Frédéric Lupien, Master’s thesis M.Sc. in Psychology Université de Montréal

Medicated Sleep

Sometimes the treating physician may choose to prescribe a sleep aid.

According to Dr. Brion, “Medication must be taken when it is indispensable,” says Dr. Isabelle Poirot. Sleeping pills are appropriate in cases of acute insomnia. “These are adjustment insomnia after, for example, a life accident such as bereavement, illness, moving house.  In the case of chronic insomnia, they have their place in certain situations. For example, when one needs to perform well the next day, a major concern for insomniacs. “Hypnotics are also useful when mental suffering is very important,” continues Dr. Poirot. As well as when working shifts.

Prescription Sleeping Aid

Prescription sleeping pills should not be used long term.  They are prescribed to treat a sleep disorder.  Dependence on sleeping pills is a disorder in itself. The most commonly used drugs are benzodiazepines or related molecules that act on the same receptors (Havlane®, Imovane®, Mogadon®, Noctamide®, Normison®, Nuctalon®, Stilnox®).

When I was working abroad, I sometimes took a sleeping pill prescribed by a doctor to alleviate the side effects of a very long flight in economy class.  Luckily I was not travelling alone.  The medication completely knocked me out!  I had no knowledge of the entire flight.  When I arrived at my destination, luckily I had my travelling companion who made sure I got off the plane and so on!

Sleeping pills can be very powerful.

Over-the-counter sleeping pills

Antihistamines, allergy drugs, also have sedative properties. “Atarax®, for example, is often prescribed for pregnant women and has marketing authorisation (MA) for children over the age of 3,” explains Dr Isabelle Poirot.  Another antihistamine, Donormyl®, is sold without a prescription in pharmacies. “Antidepressants can also be interesting for people suffering from anxiety or depression, but in this case their use is off-label,” explains our specialist. An antidepressant such as mianserin is sometimes prescribed in very small doses for “sleep maintenance”.

There are several over-the-counter sleep aids available, but again, they should only be used on a short-term basis.

Alcohol And Sleep

After a drunken night out, we quickly fall asleep, sometimes even before we get into bed.  Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol seriously disrupt the quality of sleep, confirms a new study … But during the second half of the night, all reported sleep disturbances. Alcohol reduces the duration of REM sleep, the dream phase. 

Alcohol is broken down by the liver. The result is a toxic substance (acetaldehyde), which can cause headaches. … These alcohols are also toxic, are broken down more slowly and can cause headaches the next day. Alcohol has a vasodilating effect.

The second part of the night is often a series of visits to the bathroom, followed by several glasses of water and so on.

Insomnia

Mild insomnia must meet one of the following three characteristics:  It takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.  Staying awake for more than 30 minutes during the night: Sleep less than 6.5 hours per night in a row.

Severe insomnia must meet one of the first two characteristics, as well as the third: Take more than 60 minutes before falling asleep.  Staying awake for more than 60 minutes during the night.  Have had these characteristics for more than 6 months.

Often insomnia is related to “thinking too much”. We tend to dwell on a number of negative thoughts throughout the day. At bedtime, when we have nothing else to do but let our minds go, the harmful and unnecessary thoughts take up more space and it becomes difficult to fall asleep. Meditation allows us to take a break from these thoughts by keeping our attention on something else (a pleasant landscape, a sound, etc…) to really relax and thus fall asleep more easily.

Exhaustion

Prolonged or extreme stress can trigger emotional exhaustion. Different factors can contribute to emotional exhaustion in people (bereavement, hormonal changes and others), depending on a person’s tolerance for stress and other factors in their life at that time.

There are 5 suggested stages of burnout: Burnout seems to be the last stage of exhaustion that has been going on for years.

  1. Honeymoon phase. When we begin a new task, we often begin with great job satisfaction, commitment, energy and creativity.
  2. Stress begins.
  3. Chronic stress.
  4. Burnout.
  5. Usual burnout.

Burnout is often associated with the person’s career or professional occupation.

A rapidly increasing number of people are experiencing psychological stress in the workplace. In almost all industrialized countries, absenteeism and turnover rates are rising, and an increasing number of workers are receiving disability benefits due to psychological problems. This research focuses on one specific type of workplace stress: burnout, defined as the depletion of energy resources resulting from the ongoing emotional demands of work.

The practice of meditation or conscious breathing will allow you to take a break from your thoughts.  This step contributes to the recovery from a period of burnout.

Sleep And Menopause

I’m hot, I wake up, I have to pee, I can’t go back to sleep!

For some it will be palpitations or intestinal discomfort that does not allow them to fully enjoy a restful sleep.

This is an example of a sleep cycle that women go through for several years if the symptom is not managed.

And if only one (1) menopausal symptom were managed, would there be multiple improvements in other symptoms.

Can we make a link between certain symptoms?  If so, logically one could say that by “treating”, alleviating, curing ONE symptom and perhaps several symptoms would also be alleviated?

In your opinion, is there a link between the following?  Heat at night = lack of sleep = exhaustion = lack of concentration = chronic fatigue = lack of patience = anxiety = self-esteem?  To read more on this topic HERE

In Conclusion

The application of suggestions for maximizing recuperative sleep is directly related to the success of another step towards optimal health.  Taking care of influencing factors such as choosing the right type of mattress and bedding are still fairly easy to cross off the list.

On the other hand, establishing a new lifestyle habit such as meditation takes time.

That’s why it’s best to take each of the points listed in this article as one goal and move on to the next, and so on.

I wish you sweet dreams!

Louise Therrien ND

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