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If you’ve adopted your child at an older age and are female, there is a good chance that you may go through menopause during your first years of parenting. Now I don’t believe that this makes us better or worse parents, it simply adds a few challenges along the way.
If you haven’t heard of the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause yet, I’m sure you’ll recognize them once you read their names: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful, and Psycho. Now I take issue with the “Psycho” Dwarf, a negative stereotype that could easily be replaced by a milder “Moody” for example, but the others are pretty much on target in my opinion.
Let’s begin with “Sleepy.” Many of us have insomnia during menopause or restless sleep caused by hot flashes and hot sweats. Often you get up in the morning feeling more tired than you were before you went to bed. If you add to the mix a child awakening occasionally, nights end up being nightmares. I find that my daughter co-sleeping with me induces hot sweats as she likes to cuddle up really close.
Being patient with your child and enjoying your time together are a real challenge when you are sleep deprived. So what can we do about this? First, may I strongly suggest removing caffeine completely from your diet.
It generally helps immensely in reducing hot flashes and sweats. It can be a difficult adjustment, especially when you count on that cup of coffee in the morning to perk you up, but you can get used to it. There are also certain foods that help some women reduce hot flashes and hot sweats.Christiane Northrup has excellent information and good suggestions for managing insomnia. Since most of us are no longer taking hormone replacement therapy, we have to look for other ways to ease the discomforts that frequently accompany menopause and ruin a good night’s sleep.
Secondly, get a light, mindless book that isn’t so interesting that you won’t be able to put it down, and place it beside your bed. When you can’t sleep, put on a reading light and read. No use tossing and turning, it will never put you back to sleep. If you share your room and your light is bothersome, go into the kitchen, make yourself some hot milk or caffeine free tea, and read there. until you feel ready to go back to sleep.
Now let’s say you’ve done everything you can and you are still short on sleep and very tired all day running around after your child. This is where the nap comes in; if your child naps, take a nap yourself. Forget about the toys scattered everywhere, the dishes in the sink, and the endless piles of laundry – you know they’ll wait for you. Just ensure that you don’t sleep too long – sometimes naps prevent people from falling asleep at night. If there are no nap opportunities during your day, try to initiate a quiet rest time in the afternoon so you can have some down time, even if it is just half an hour.
If you haven’t been doing any exercising at all, it is time to start doing something to get your body going. A good walk pushing a stroller, swimming with your child or playing in the park will help with your sleeping as well; just don’t exercise within a couple hours of going to sleep as it may wake you up.
And last but not least, don’t go to bed too early. Most of us don’t need as much sleep as we did when we were younger. If you hop into bed at 10:00 pm, there is a good chance you’ll be ready to start the day at 4:00 am. Set your bedtime so that you will wake up when your child gets up.
Next week I’ll be discussing another one of those pesky dwarfs that invade our peace of mind during menopause. Your comments and wisdom on the subject are welcomed.
Image Credit: flickr