What would you rather have: A night of out-of-this-world sex? Or a solid, uninterrupted eight hours of deep sleep?
We didn’t ask that question on our sleep survey, but I think we should have (next sleep survey!) Based on the responses we got to the questions we did ask, I’m betting that a majority of you would have longed for the latter. The sweet shut-eye.
Here’s why we believe that: a whopping 48 percent of you told us that you have sleep issues almost every night, and only 11 percent of you get a full eight hours or more. (The majority of you get six to seven hours, and a third report four to five hours max.) The problem for 42 percent of you is waking up several times a night, making for light, choppy sleep that leaves you irritable and punchy during daylight hours.
For the majority of you, sleep has gotten more elusive in the past 10 years, and menopause has clearly played a part in your tossing and turning, with night sweats being a huge culprit. “Waking up at 3 a.m. in a pool of sweat is no fun,” said one respondent. “Menopause started me on the path of no return,” said another.
Plus, the hormonal see-saw of menopause has smacked many of you in the face. Cathryn Wood cited the actual date her hormones went off the rails. June 15th, 2016. “I did not sleep for three nights straight and felt like I was psychotic,” she reported. “I was in fact.”
The good news is that many of you said your sleep issues have resolved after menopause. So we have that to look forward to.
Why Is Sleep So Elusive?
When asked to explain the most common reason for watching the wee hours tick by on your clocks, 60 percent of you said it was because your minds wouldn’t shut down. Thirty five percent said what worries them most in the dark are concerns about money and/or a job. Others cite more amorphous anxiety: The state of the world keeps 21 percent of you up; 14 percent blamed a general sense of dread, and 22 percent cited anxiety about sleep itself.
But it wasn’t just mental issues that kept eyes wide open. Thirty-nine percent blamed body aches and pains; others mentioned restless legs and needing to pee in the middle of the night. “Because I’ve become a lighter sleeper, I feel the need to pee more often. Sigh,” said one respondent. Come on bladder, get it together.
We were impressed that so many of you took proactive, healthy steps to address your sleep issues. Yoga and exercise were the go-to solutions for 35 percent, 31 percent resorted to homeopathic sleep aids, such as melatonin and 27 percent swear by meditation. As far as the stiffer stuff, only 11 percent of you turn to alcohol, the same amount to marijuana, and a small number of you use over the counter sleep aids (17 percent) or prescription medicine (10 percent).
Your Sleep Solutions
A lot of you report that if you can’t get back to sleep in the middle of the night, you like to do something productive, such as read a book, knit, sew, or even clean. “Keep an interesting but difficult book on your nightstand—something that requires concentration,” Rhonda Gilmour advised. “I tend to nod off again after reading a few pages in dim light. And If I can’t go back to sleep, at least I’ll have used the time productively. All problems seem worse at 3 a.m.”
Many of you had advice for others, based on hard-won experience. Some of the advice is fairly common: avoid caffeine after a certain hour, create bedtime routines, put on white noise, and stay off electronics. Other tricks are unconventional: move your pillow to the foot of the bed, sleep on the floor, think about your last dream if you wake in the middle of the night and you’ll distract yourself enough to get back to sleep. But if you’re really stuck—”I’m at the breaking point!” exclaimed one respondent—then a visit to a sleep clinic was highly encouraged. Or there’s always this: “Consider the alternative,” said Jeannette Holtman. “You could go to sleep and never wake up.”