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Sleep After 40: What is Insomnia, and How Does it Affect Our Health and Well-Being?

arms-crossed-in-front-of-face-sqIf you are older than 40, chances are good you’re starting to struggle with bouts of insomnia. This common sleep disorder affects many individuals, especially women during this transitional time of perimenopause and menopause. Insomnia can significantly impact one’s quality of life, causing fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

All too often, women will discuss their insomnia with their primary providers, and they’re given one answer: pharmaceutical medications. You may be prescribed a sedative-hypnotic, like Ambien, an anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication, or worse, a benzodiazepine like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, or Valium.

And yes, they get the job done. Many of us fall asleep within 30 minutes, which can seem like a miracle—especially if you’ve struggled for several years with your sleep. But, as my colleague and transformational holistic sleep coach Morgan Adams recently pointed out during a Menopause Mastery podcast, prolonged use of these kinds of drugs can have serious consequences.

“It’s changing the actual architecture of your sleep,” she explained. “So, you’re not getting as much REM sleep. You’re not getting as much deep sleep. And so, you don’t feel quite as restored in the morning.”

The Aftermath of Prolonged Sedative Use

When our sleep architecture changes, it affects our body at a deeper level than so many of us realize. If you don’t get true quality, deep sleep, you can’t consolidate memory. You can’t process the emotions of the day. You wake up with grogginess, and it can take hours to feel like you’re actually functioning at optimal levels. Your brain does not have the mechanisms it needs to reset itself, physically or chemically.

The medications also have a multitude of side effects. They can cause patients to do things in a sleep-dazed state while they look like they’re still awake. People have been known to sleepwalk into a neighbor’s house, dangerously drive their vehicles, and even shop on Amazon, to the tune of thousands of dollars!

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for sleeping pills. There is, but for short-term use during times of tragedy or massive personal upheaval. Many of the medications include a warning for no more than four weeks of use in situations like these.

However, for many patients, just one month is all it takes to change their sleep architecture and become reliant on these medications.

Hope Through Sleep Restructuring

So, now that we know why sleep medications aren’t the best solution for insomnia, how do we find a solution to our sleep problems?

In my next blog, I’ll give you my tips and recommendations and share those that Morgan offers her patients. They’ll help you take a step back and restructure your sleep habits, effecting change that lasts much longer and does more for your body than a night of Ambien can.

Until then, for more tips about mastering menopause, be sure to visit our website,, and listen to more from our podcast here.


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