The first night my mum brought me home from the hospital, I slept through the night The second evening, I slept for nine hours straight. I know this because I found my baby book not too long ago and read what she wrote almost forty-five years ago.
This isn’t a case of her painting a rosy picture of how easy she had it as a mother. This is a true story about a person who has always been able to sleep like a champ.
As a little girl, I remember putting myself to bed. As a teenager, I’d be the first to fall asleep during sleepovers. The madness happening around my head never moved me.
In college, my roommate had to wake me up during fire drills because I’d sleep right through them. Oh, and if you saw a girl asleep on a random sofa while a beer pong tournament was happening in the early ’90s, it was probably me.
My point is, I’m a sleeper. I’ve always been a sleeper and if I don’t get my 9-10 hours a night I don’t function well in the real world. By that I mean I cry if they get my order wrong at Starbucks, I can’t find my left shoe, or we run out of mayonnaise. I don’t even like mayonnaise.
That all changed about a year ago when perimenopause started knocking at my front door. At first, I started with waking up in the middle of the night for my nightly pee and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. I figured I just had a lot on my mind and would try to clear my head. But nothing helped– not even keeping my eyes close and trying to make my way to the bathroom while staying semi-asleep. That just led to a stubbed toe and falling in the bathroom sink.
Then, after a few months of that nonsense, I’d wake up in a wash of sweat even if it was fifteen below outside and I went to bed in the buff which was something I started doing after I felt the wrath of my first hot flash.
My head would be soaked and my hair would look like I’d been up all night doing the feather bed jig ( I was sleeping alone, mind you). My heart would be pounding and I’d wonder if I’d had a bad dream I couldn’t remember. I was now a few steps closer to feeling what it was like in hell.
I was experiencing the taste of perimenopause and let me tell you something: It’s not pretty, it doesn’t let up, and now I get why my mother was a wad of stress and tears and I never wanted to be around her when she was my age.
Next came the difficulty of falling asleep despite dragging my tired ass around all day just trying to make it through until bedtime when I was sure I’d fall face down in my pillow and be out for the night.
But no such luck. It felt like my melatonin went on holiday and let me fend for myself.
This has been the worst part of perimenopause for me. I can deal with the random periods, the lower sex drive and vaginal dryness. Hell, they have a lube for that.
But the regular sleep feels like a long, lost lover I’ll never get my hands on again. I think about it a lot. I have fantasizes about it being like it used to be and I want nothing more than for it to come back into my life.
Lack of sleep leads to moodiness, anxiety, and depression. It makes me forget why I walked into a room and makes me want to throw my alarm clock against the wall every time it wakes me up in the morning (exactly two hours after I’ve fallen asleep). Not to mention it makes me feel like my hormonal shifts and mood swings are on steroids.
The National Sleep Foundation reports, “From peri-menopause to post-menopause, women report the most sleeping problems. Most notably, these include hot flashes, mood disorders, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep problems are often accompanied by depression and anxiety.”
While it’s always reassuring to know your pain is a normal part of whatever you are going through, I simply cannot lie back and hope tonight will be a night I get some sleep.
So, I took some advice from my doctor who admitted to being a few years ahead of me on the menopause ride: She suggested taking a sleep aid a few nights a week to keep you on track. She found the first time she took it and got a good night’s sleep, it set her up to sleep better the next few nights.
It’s made all the difference and can feel my old self coming back (most days anyway), and my kids have thanked me for it.
If you are suddenly having problems falling into a deep slumber, you may be on the perimenopause wagon too. And if you’re feeling helpless, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for help.
Your sleep (and your sanity) are too important to be ignored.