The benefits of sleep – a good night’s rest and how to get one

Jane Midwinter is the founder of HotWomenAtMenopause, an associate trainer with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and is a menopause coach. She also writes articles on menopause for women and their employers.

Jane’s monthly column, specially written for Hastings in Focus, offers accurate information and support for women and a better understanding of menopause for all.

After losing an hour in bed last Sunday and feeling a little sleepier on Monday morning, I’m turning my attention – and my pillows – to sleep!

Did you know:

  • Insufficient sleep can affect our mental and heart health, cognitive functions and our bones.
  • Progesterone has a sleep-inducing effect, so when it’s in decline sleep can be affected.
  • Hot flushes, night sweats, itching and anxiety could all be reasons for disturbed sleep.
  • Alcohol may lull you into a deep sleep, but a common side effect is to then wake up in the early hours!
  • Blue light from screens on gadgets suppresses melatonin, the hormone which controls sleep/wake patterns.
  • You can take part in the UK Sleep Survey – and get tips! 


I have difficulty getting off to sleep in the first place. What might help?

Check your bedtime routine and your sleep environment. Routines tell your brain it’s time to wind down. A dark, cool, quiet bedroom promotes sleep. Ditch the TV and ban phones and laptops! Try earplugs in a noisy environment or play relaxing music.  

Hot flushes and night sweats wake me up throughout the night. I’ve tried a fan and sleeping without bedclothes. Nothing helps. What can I do?

Getting these symptoms under control is the first step. Ask your GP about available treatments – HRT, or complementary and alternative therapies; black cohosh or sage can work for some women.

I find it hard to switch off at night. Any ideas?

Mindfulness apps or yoga breathing can help. Capturing thoughts on paper stops them whizzing around! Keep a notebook by your bed and address them in the morning. Find ways to reduce stress.

Why do I wake up gasping?

A decline in progesterone can also affect the muscle at the back of the throat, leading to sleep apnoea. Though not everyone with sleep apnoea wakes up snoring or gasping for breath – they may suffer with other issues like headaches. Check the link below if you think you might have sleep apnoea and don’t ignore it.

Could a glass of wine be keeping me awake? 

A glass of wine may be relaxing, but it can also be a trigger for disturbed sleep. Tracking symptoms can help to identify patterns and make adjustments if needed.

Why am I tossing and turning?

Is your bed comfy? We spend a third of our lives in bed, so invest in a decent mattress and pillows that support your head and neck. Layered covers or throws may be preferable to a duvet.

 I run every day and am ready for bed at 10.30 but then I can’t sleep.  Should I stop running?

Exercise is good for health and aids sleep. However, close to bedtime it can be stimulating. Enjoy your running but consider when you run.

My vulva itches terribly at night. What might be the cause?

Declining levels of oestrogen often cause dryness and itching, affecting the vulva and vagina particularly when hot. Wear nothing, or loose cotton nightwear, and use a vaginal moisturiser and a non-perfumed cleanser.  Jane Lewis’s book Me and My Menopausal Vagina is very helpful. 

My Aching and stiff joints wake me up when I turn over. What can help? 

Lower oestrogen levels can contribute to joint pain and stiffness. Moving and stretching is important, and massage may help. HRT or supplements may help. Speak to your GP and try this month’s recipe too!

Turmeric Milk ‘Haldi Doodh’

Why do I need the loo so much throughout the night?

Oestrogen can affect bladder function, so regular pelvic floor exercises are important – try the NHS Squeezy App. Reducing tea and coffee in the evening may help but keep hydrated during the day. Water flushes out toxins, balances hormones, helps our digestive systems, supports brain health and much more – all of which contribute to healthy sleep. 

And finally…

Try not to stress – it’s the worst thing you can do. Watch Dr Michael Mosley on The One Show this week for his 4-2-4 breathing technique.

Turmeric Milk ‘Haldi Doodh’

A delicious, warming drink, perfect as part of a calming bedtime routine.  For the full recipe, visit: Nutrition at Menopause – HotWomenAtMenopause

Helpful links:

How to get to sleep – NHS

How to cope with sleep problems – Mind

Menopause and insomnia – Women’s Health Concern

Sleep apps – NHS

Free app for sleep – Insight Timer

Sleep Apnoea – NHS

Vaginal Moisturisers and intimate cleansers and lubes – YES The Organic Intimacy Company

Vaginal Discomfort and atropy – My Menopausal Vagina

Alcohol Units – NHS

Menopause in the Workplace

The UK Sleep Census

Squeezy – pelvic floor exercises from the NHS

NOTE:  See your GP if your symptoms persist and always consult your GP or a qualified nutrition therapist or herbalist about taking herbal remedies and supplements.

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