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When you suffer from night sweats it easy to fall into habits that become your new normal.

When you have disturbed sleep, you start to develop sleep behaviours that would be classified as non-sleep behaviours. This includes things like lying in bed tossing and turning, watching TV in bed or using your tablet or phone. When you start doing this, your brain associates bed with being awake rather than being asleep. Being in bed then triggers wakefulness rather than encouraging sleepiness.

When you become trapped in this cycle, it’s important to break it.

 

The importance of relaxation

 

Your body’s stress response is a big factor when it comes to insomnia and being trapped in a cycle of sleeplessness.
There is good evidence available to support using relaxation to improve sleep. It’s also easily combined with other aspects of good sleep hygiene. (See this post for more tips on that)

Like anything though, regular practice will improve your skills and make it more effective when you need to use it.

 

Aims of insomnia treatment

 

The main aim is to re-establish a good pattern of being awake and alert during the day and sleepiness at night.

 

How can you do this

 

  • You should try to stay moderately active during the day and get plenty of exposure to natural light.
  • Avoid napping during the day and establish a wind down routine towards bedtime. You can find more tips on this in this post.
  • Keep your sleep time as regular as possible, regardless of whether you had a poor nights sleep the night before.
  • Try to still do all you usual day time activities and don’t restrict them if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep the night before.
  • Develop a stronger association between bed and sleep. If you’re lying in bed awake for 20 minutes, get up and move to another room. Relax or read until you feel sleep then try going back to bed.

Relaxation

 

Relaxing is a skill and one that gets better with practice. If you can develop a version that works for you, you can use this an automatic response if you’re woken by night sweats.

There are a number of techniques you can use to help with relaxation that promotes sleep. Common ones are breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.

 

Gentle breathing:

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.
  • Breathe in and out slowly for about five minutes. As you inhale, breathe down into your belly and feel it expanding. Focus on your breath.
  • It can be helpful to also use affirmations. Normally affirmations and things are a bit woo for me but it is known that repetition of thoughts and phrases can help reinforce a message in your brain. Try a phrase such as, “Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am coping.”

Progressive muscle relaxation:

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Take a few gentle breaths, in and out.
  • Start by tensing groups of muscles one at a time as you breathe. Hold the tension as you inhale, then release it as you exhale. Take a few breaths as you notice how relaxed each muscle group feels.
  • It’s usually best (and easier) to start with the muscles in your head, neck and face. Move down to your shoulders, hands and arms, back, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet.
  • Repeat the exercise for any areas that still feel tense.
As you go through this, notice the areas of presence and absence of tension so you can spot any areas that may need extra work.
If you would like to explore this further and see how you can use techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help with sleep and managing night sweats, please get in touch for further info on my group sessions that are due to start soon.

Hi, I'm Kerry. I'm a menopause coach for women who want to take control of their menopause and do it their way.

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