October 2007


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Upcoming Events

About Midlife Journeys

Aaah, Sleep

About Midlife Journeys

For many people, midlife is a time of transformation, a time of seeking greater purpose, joy and meaning in the second half of life. Midlife Journeys is a monthly newsletter designed to support you in reconnecting with your authentic self and energizing your life through deep self-nurturing, creative expression and heart-centered living. Each issue contains inspiration and resources to help guide you on your journey to greater aliveness, joy and fulfillment.

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Aaah, Sleep

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." - Marcus Aurelius

As we get older, a good night's sleep can become elusive particularly during the menopausal transition. A variety of factors, from getting up to go to the bathroom to night sweats, may cause women in particular to experience lighter sleep, early morning waking, or insomnia.

According to Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause, sleep disturbances can also result from medical conditions; physical reactions to certain medications, to alcohol, or to stimulants such as nicotine or caffeine; a changing sleep schedule or poor sleep habits; psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, or depression; or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

Certain lifestyle changes* may help improve sleep. These include:

Physical activity: Moderate exercise, particularly early in the day, may help you sleep better at night. Avoid exercising within three hours of going to bed which can have the opposite effect.

Relaxation: massage, meditation, or other stress reduction techniques.

Sunshine: Exposure to light during waking hours helps to set your body clock.

Cutting down on or eliminating stimulants such as alcohol (a sedative at first which becomes a stimulant upon breaking down in the body); caffeine; and smoking.

Practicing the following "sleep hygiene" techniques* may also be helpful:

-- Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, including weekends.
-- Create quiet time - at least an hour before you get into bed - for activities such as reading a non- stimulating book or listening to soft music. Turning off the TV, cell phones, computers and other electronic equipment may also help.
-- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex only. It may be helpful to keep TV sets, telephones, pets or anything else that may disturb your sleep in other areas of your home.
-- Wear socks to bed if cold feet tend to wake you up.
-- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool.
-- Use light sheets and blankets for bedding.
-- Dress in light cotton or other material that wicks away perspiration.
-- Place a chilled gel pack under your pillow. When a night sweat occurs, you can simply turn your pillow over for a quick, cool hit. Even without a gel pack, sometimes just turning the pillow over is enough, or have a second pillow for switching off during the night.
-- Install thick shades on bedroom windows to block out all light.
-- Use an eye mask and ear plugs.
-- Practice meditation, deep breathing, and/or positive self-talk at bedtime to calm worries and concerns that may cause sleeplessness.
-- Turn the alarm clock toward the wall so you won't see the time if you awaken at night.
-- Take a hot shower or bath right before bedtime. This increases your body temperature. When you dry off, your body temperature begins to drop and thus starts the internal physiological process that is the beginning of sleep. (However, avoid getting under a down comforter when you are hot as this could trigger hot flashes.)

On the other hand, if you find yourself waking in the middle of the night or early morning (many people report waking regularly at 3 or 4 am) and not being able to fall back to sleep, you may find it less stressful to go with the flow.

This can be a peaceful and fertile time for creative pursuits such as writing or painting or for spiritual practices such as meditation or reading uplifiting spiritual material (particularly if you can go back to sleep later and don't have to rise too early!). Spiritual teachers say this is the time when we are most open to communication with the Divine.

In that case, it might be a good idea to follow Rumi's advice:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you;
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

Whatever nighttime path you find yourself on, may you sleep peacefully, dream sweetly and rise refreshed and ready to gratefully greet another day!

Love and blessings,

*Source: The Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause, NY: Touchstone, 2006.

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