Skip to Content

Category Archives: sleep

A New Study Evaluates Non-Hormonal Treatments For Hot Flashes

by on November 8, 2012

The benefits of aerobic exercise and the more mindful practice of Yoga to our mental and physical health are well studied and undeniable. They can help us stay agile, healthy and fit well into our later years.  But there is one thing that Yoga – and physical exercise in general – can’t help with at all and that’s hot flashes.

It’s disappointing news, but not surprising. It seems that a lot of purported remedies for hot flashes, such as flax seed, botanicals like Black Cohosh, acupuncture, and deep breathing, have failed to show any benefit when put through the rigors of a scientific study.

This latest clinical trial comes from a NIH-funded initiative called MsFlash (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answer for Symptoms of Health), that established a research network to conduct clinical trials of promising treatments for the most common symptoms of the menopausal transition such as hot flashes, sleep disorders, and sexual function. In this particular study, investigators took a close look at the effect of exercise, the practice of Yoga and Omega 3 supplements on vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats).

Nearly 250 post-menopausal women participated in five cities (Boston, Indiana, Oakland, Philadelphia and Seattle). Their average age was 54 and they reported seven to eight hot flashes a day. Women assigned to the exercise group received aerobic conditioning three times a week in a supervised setting for 12 weeks and even had a personal trainer to get them to the most effective level of intensity. … [Read more]


Help Conquer Menopause-Related Insomnia

by on May 20, 2012

At the Stanford University Women’s Health Forum this month, I had a chance to hear Rachael Manber Ph.D., the director of the School of Medicine’s Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, explain why so many people have trouble falling and staying asleep. Especially women.  Apparently, as we age, we complain about poor quality sleep twice as often as men. Menopausal hot flashes certainly have something to do with it.

Dr. Manber and her associates want to explore this further in an effort to develop a protocol for treating insomnia and noctournal hot flashes that doesn’t involve drugs.  (If they figure this one out, I think they would deserve a Nobel prize). As a first step, they’re looking for peri-and post-menopausal women, who are having trouble sleeping AND suffer hot flashes, to complete an anonymous online survey that takes about 15-20 minutes of your time. As Sara Nowakowski Ph.D., explained, ”we’re hoping to gather information on what symptoms menopausal women are experiencing and their treatment preferences in order to develop the most useful treatment for them.”

If you’d like to participate in this survey, you’ll find it online here.

Click here to spread the word about this study on Twitter.


Fall Asleep Faster and Stay Asleep Longer With These Herbal Teas

by on February 7, 2012

I can remember the last time that I had a solid seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.  It was two and a half years ago. It was such a rare occurrence for me that I can tell you where I was (not at home) and what I did that day to make me so exhausted. More typically, I have to “encourage” my body to fall asleep with a night time ritual that promotes relaxation and sleepiness, such as turning off the computer a good hour or two before bedtime or taking a hot shower or bath. But staying asleep is another story.

Lately, though, I’ve been adding herbal tea to my nighttime routine, with mostly good results.  That’s because there’s a new generation of teas- or herbal infusions – with nighttime formulations that have more firepower than you’ll get with a basic Chamomile blend. So, if you need help falling asleep faster, or staying asleep longer, consider trying some of these herbal teas at bedtime as I have during the past several weeks.

menopause, insomnia, anxiety, restlessnessIf you’re new to tea drinking, I recommend starting with a basic chamomile blend. It just might be all you need to get some quality sleep.  I’ve been sipping Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime Tea” for years, and at times, I’ve used as many as three tea bags at once to get a big dose of Chamomile, its predominant ingredient, as a natural sedative.  It often does the trick, especially when combined with a good book or calm music. Twinings brand “Bedtime Blend” is another pleasant-tasting tea containing the same blend of Chamomile, Spearmint and Lemongrass.

If you’re ready to take it to the next level, I suggest trying The Republic of Tea’s “Get Some ZZZ’s Tea. Itmenopause, insomnia, anxiety contains Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss), from the South African Redbush shrub, and Passionflower.  Both plants are common ingredients in supplements used to alleviate anxiety and occasional insomnia. But what really sets this tea apart from others is the 20 mg of Valerian Root that’s contained in just one cup.  As described by Dr. Laurie Steelsmith in her book, Natural Choices for Women’s Health; ”Valerian root calms and restores your nervous system. It is especially helpful if you can’t get to sleep because your mind is racing.” According to the government’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM),  researchers have concluded that Valerian appears to be safe at recommended doses for short-term use (4-6 months).

menopause, insomnia, anxietyWhen I was examining the ingredient list of Traditional Medicinals’ “Organic Nighty Night” Tea in Whole Foods, a woman walking by encouraged me to buy it. “It really works,” she said, and I have to agree with her.  Its base is a lemony-flavored blend of Spearmint, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Peel and Lemongrass.  But it’s the Passionflower, Chamomile, Linden Flower, Catnip and Hops that, when combined, seems to promotes relaxation.  Hops, which is the main ingredient in beer, is known as a relaxing natural sedative.

menopause, insomnia

Finally, I tried Yogi “Bedtime” tea with “soothing caramel”  and vanilla flavors added. It’s mostly a blend of eleven botanical plants including Chamomile, Rooibos, Cinnamon Bark and Ginger Root. But I suspect it’s the California Poppy Plant and  L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, that makes the difference.  Theanine has been shown, at least in larger doses, to help with relaxation and stress.

Now, before you try any of these herbal infusions, I have a few suggestions:

  • If you have a medical condition, or you’re on daily medication, it’s important that you review the Tea’s ingredient list (usually found online) with your physician to make sure that there isn’t anything that will interfere with your treatments or prescriptions.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about botanical supplements, I recommend visiting these two government websites; The National Institute of Health’s Center for CAM  and Office of Dietary Supplements. They are excellent resources for unbiased information. There’s an informative document on Sleep Disorders and CAM that you’ll find helpful as well.
  • With these nighttime teas, consider one cup a normal “dose.” Don’t overdo it even if you love the flavor. Besides, if you drink too much, you’ll have to use the bathroom during the night and, well, that defeats the purpose of them, doesn’t it?

If any of these teas improve or even solve your sleeping problems, would you let me and others know in the comment box below?  Perhaps you can suggest another brand that has worked for you.



A Prescription-Free Solution to Sleep Deprivation

by on January 10, 2011

If you’re experiencing hot flashes and anxiety at night, common symptoms of menopause, you’re probably not getting enough shut-eye and if you can’t remember the last time you had  seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you’re probably walking around in a fog, too tired to exercise and feeling crabby all the time.  If that’s the case, you might want to consider napping. I know it sounds like a luxury that you don’t have time for.  But if described as a “power” nap, would you have more respect for this prescription-free solution to sleep-deprivation and give it a try? … [Read more]


How to Kick the Insomnia Habit: A Menopause Expert’s Advice

by on August 1, 2010

Sleep difficulty is one of the hallmarks of menopause.  Some midlife women find they have trouble falling asleep, while others can’t seem to stay asleep. Which ever camp you’re in (I’m in the latter), you’re probably all too familiar with the problems caused by sleepless nights: lethargy, forgetfulness, and depression are just a few that you might consider bothersome or uncomfortable at worst.  But did you know that constant sleep deprivation can have more profound consequences on your health?   The Cardia Sleep Study, for example, showed a correlation between sleep deprivation and higher blood pressure levels, especially among pre-menopausal women.  So what can you do about it?  I asked Rebecca Hulem, aka The Menopause Expert, about the causes and cures (if there are any) for hormone-related insomnia:

Wendy: Why do mid-life women have so many sleep problems?

Rebecca: Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are two complaints I frequently hear from women who are transitioning through menopause. Many women, who are in the peri-menopause transition which usually starts around the age of 45, usually face this issue the most. The most common reason for this is the lack of a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone is produced by the ovary during ovulation and during peri-menopause, ovulation declines significantly thus reducing the production of progesterone. Progesterone’s key role in a woman’s body is to: regulate menstrual periods, regulate moods and allow a feeling of drowsiness at night which allows us to sleep easily. … [Read more]


The Effect of Poor Sleep Quality on Blood Pressure

by on June 16, 2009

Sleep disturbances, weight gain and creeping blood pressure are common complaints of women in mid-life.  I’ve learned through experience and research that there’s  a connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain as well as between weight gain and high blood pressure. Now, a new study, published just last week, is making a direct connection between sleep duration and blood pressure.  It concluded that “early middle-aged adults who sleep fewer hours appear more likely to have high blood pressure and to experience adverse changes in blood pressure over time.” … [Read more]


A New Study Explains the Connection Between Insomnia and Weight Gain

by on April 20, 2009

The connection between insomnia and weight gain, both common complaints of mid-life women, has been well established, but a new study by UCLA researchers has revealed why.

The culprits are two hormones; ghrelin, often referred to as the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite and increases before meals; and leptin, which tells the body when it is hungry and when it is full.  Sleep loss apparently leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin -  a “double-whammy” that stimulates appetite.

By the way, a year ago I wrote about a Canadian research study that concluded that too much sleep can cause weight gain.  I guess you just have to figure out how much shut-eye is right for you.


A Study Explores The Connection Between Sleep and Risk of Stroke

by on October 18, 2008

When you’re having trouble sleeping – as most women in menopause are – it’s hard to believe that too much sleep can cause problems.  I’d settle for a little too much sleep anytime. But new research suggests that too much shut-eye can raise your risk of stroke… and too little makes you vulnerable too. Where’s the sweet spot?

… [Read more]


Can’t Sleep? Try These New Products To Keep You Cool & Comfy

by on September 24, 2008

Because it’s Menopause Awareness Month, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails about products aimed at helping women ease, or at least cope with, the most disruptive symptoms of menopause – hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. I haven’t tried them myself, but you might find them helpful.  Here are a few to consider:

… [Read more]