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Coping with the clock change

Menopause can mean sleep issues – here’s how to ease into British Summer Time

The clocks are set to spring forward by one hour on 31 March, paving the way for brighter mornings and lighter evenings.

But the time change that signals the start of British Summer Time also means an hour less in bed, which can make a difference if you are struggling with poor sleep during the perimenopause and menopause.

Sleep issues can be common during the menopause due to hormone changes. The hormones estrogen and testosterone both have important effects on your brain, including helping the quality and duration of sleep. Low estrogen levels can also lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, weight gain, and mood changes, all symptoms which can be exacerbated by a lack of sleep.

Another hormone, progesterone, is beneficial for sleep too, as it increases the production of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a chemical in your brain that works to help sleep. Progesterone can also improve relaxation and mood and a drop in progesterone levels can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness and trouble sleeping, including a tendency to wake up frequently.

RELATED: Daylight and vitamin D: why you need them during the menopause

Here, balance looks at some tips on how to minimise the impact of the lost hour.

Try going to bed a little earlier

A consistent routine is like an anchor to your sleeping patterns. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up and getting up at the same time every morning (yes, even at weekends) helps maintain a regular routine.

But in the run up to the clock change, make some small adjustments to your routine: start preparing three days before by going to bed and getting up 20 minutes earlier each day. By Sunday, your body will be in tune with British Summer Time.

And did you know that you can log your sleep quality and duration via the balance menopause support app?

RELATED: Sleep and hormones factsheet

Embrace the lighter mornings

Starting your day with a walk outside is a great way to let your body know you need to be awake and active and reset a healthy circadian rhythm.

There are light receiving cells in your retinas that tell your brain to stop making the sleep hormone melatonin and the light stimulates production of the hormone cortisol, to help get your brain fired up for the day. A light early morning walk will usually help you fall asleep more quickly at night too.

So on the morning of March 31, why not throw those curtains open wide bright and early and embrace the day?

Don’t forget about good sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the routines and practices that promote good sleep. It’s about getting your mind and body into a favourable state for sleep, and making your bedroom the best possible environment to fall asleep in.

This includes:

  • keeping it cool: It’s much easier to get to sleep and stay asleep if you are on the cool side of comfortable rather than warm, especially if you have hot flushes and night sweats
  • avoid (or limit) alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. Both are stimulants that can disrupt your sleep cycle, so if you are suffering with menopause-related sleep issues this could exacerbate them
  • try and curb time spent on mobiles and tablets at the end of the day. Blue light in the evening disrupts your brain’s natural sleep­wake cycles. There are several ways to block blue light in the evening, including dimming or turning off the lights in your home and amber tinted reading glasses
  • keep your room as dark as possible as it helps your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Blackout blinds or curtains are great for this.

RELATED: Alcohol and the menopause

Have young children? Prepare them too

Children’s sleep routines can be disrupted when the clocks change, which will also likely mean broken sleep for you. Look to adjust your child’s bedtimes by having afternoon naps, meals and bath time slightly earlier in the days leading up to 31 March.

RELATED: How to talk to your children about the menopause

Coping with the clock change

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