Life Changes That Can Affect Sleep Patterns

Pregnancy

Many women experience trouble sleeping during pregnancy. The body is undergoing many biological changes and some of these affect sleep.

 

> First Trimester: As your progestrone increases, you’ll notice a need to nap more frequently. While it can make you sleepy during the day, it can have the opposite effect at night. The trick is to nap when you feel drowsy and try to incorporate rest into your schedule. Now is the time to start sleeping on your left side nightly. It improves the blood flow and nutrients carried to your fetus, while aiding your body to eliminate wastes and fluids. You’ll also notice the need to get up during the night to urinate. As the uterus grows it puts pressure on the internal organs, including the bladder.

 

> Second Trimester: Many consider this to be the best trimester for getting sleep. As your progesterone levels rise more slowly now, you should have more daytime energy and sleep better at night. Simple exercise or walking can boost your feeling of well-being. During this phase of pregnancy, you may experience sleep stealers such as snoring, sleep apnea, leg cramps, restless legs or vivid dreams. If you experience any problems, be sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider.

 

> Third Trimester: The honeymoon phase of the second trimester is over as sleep becomes increasingly difficult. During this stage, the baby becomes very big and getting comfortable is nearly impossible. Your sleep will be in smaller doses as you wake up often. Many moms agree this is good preparation for life after baby arrives! Your nighttime trips to the bathroom will increase as more pressure is put on your bladder.  Drinking less liquids in the evening can help, as does making sure your bladder is completely empty before you go back to bed. Some moms-to-be find it more comfortable sleeping semi-propped up rather than on their side. In addition to all the sleep stealers listed in trimester two above, you will also feel the baby kicking, squirming and moving about. Know that it’s only sporadic and temporary. Instead of being irritated, be thankful that your little one is almost ready to make his or her debut in the world, then try to relax back to sleep.

 

Menopause

In their late 40’s and early 50’s, women go through a biological shift in their life that brings their reproductive years to an end. This hormonal adjustment occurs when the ovaries ability to produce estrogen and progesterone is greatly reduced. Physical changes, such as hot flashes and night sweating, can result in sleeping difficulties. In the 4-8 year period leading up to menopause, 59% of women report inability to sleep. As menopause draws nearer, restful sleep becomes less frequent. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 61% of menopausal women experience sleep-related problems. Speak to your doctor if menopause is affecting your ability to obtain sufficient rest. Short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be effective for some, but there are risks associated with prolonged use, such as blood clots, breast cancer and heart disease. For nighttime relief without the use of hormones, wear loose fitting, natural fiber pj’s. These tend to breathe better, while synthetic fabrics can trap heat.

For more ideas on getting a good night’s rest, here are the Top 5 Tips for Better Sleep

 

Age

Growing older does not necessarily go hand in hand with increased sleep problems. Some common sleep complaints from senior citizens are: difficulty in falling asleep, waking up multiple times during the night, waking up pre-dawn, not feeling rested, and having to nap during the day. There may be some underlying causes for disruptive sleep patterns, and these should be brought to the attention of your doctor. You might be able to make some adjustments to your routine and notice that it makes a positive difference in how rested you feel each day.

 

                -Regular sleep habits are very important to staying mentally sharp and focused each day. Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily. Daytime napping can be counter-productive to establishing this routine. It should be discouraged, but if it’s really necessary, it’s best to nap only 15-30 minutes early in the day and not after lunch.

 

                -Stay active! Social and recreational activities with friends and family stimulate the mind and keep your body engaged. Being outdoors in the sun helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Many seniors enjoy activities such as swimming, dance, golf, gardening, cycling or walking. In colder climates, seniors can meet at shopping malls and do indoor walking while socializing. These are fun and at the end of the day rest comes easier.

 

                -Taking daily medication is necessary for some seniors. Some medicine can impair sleep or stimulate the body into being awake. Please discuss this with your doctor to evaluate if this may be causing insomnia for you. Don’t use sleeping pills or natural sleep aids without discussing all your medications with your doctor.

 

                -As the soft tissue in the back of the throat sags with age, snoring can be an issue. If your partner’s snoring is keeping you up, the most cost-effective solution is to use earplugs. If this strategy isn’t working, try a white noise machine. These generate soft sound patterns, such as a breeze or rushing water, that filter out unwanted noise. If you wake yourself by snoring, try changing positions and sleep on your side. More troublesome snoring could indicate a disorder like sleep apnea, so see your physician and ask if a Sleep Center evaluation is appropriate.

 

                -No alcohol or nicotine before bedtime. Nicotine is a stimulant and, if you must smoke, be sure you stop 3 hours before going to bed. Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. The elderly are at greater risk for experiencing alcohol’s effects than a younger person, since they achieve higher levels of alcohol in their blood and brain. If awakened during the night, their risk of losing their balance is greater. Instead of alcohol, try healthier relaxation activities. At any age, getting a restful night’s sleep can include a massage, reading a book or listening to relaxing music.

 

                -If chronic pain, psychological or emotional distress is causing sleep problems for you or a senior you know, be sure to seek medical attention.