Hello, dear reader. You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven’t posted any new content here for quite a while… much longer than I intended or wanted.
This has not been due to lack of desire to post. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It’s been the result of hitting a metaphorical brick wall: wicked and at times intractable insomnia.
Sleep has never been a problem for me, other than dealing with the standard interruptions caused by parenting young children back in my 30s.
But a few months ago, in mid-September, insomnia attacked. With a vengeance.
At first, I’d just wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for hours. My sleep started feeling more and more fragmented. The problem finally progressed to nights when I literally couldn’t fall asleep at all, at any point, no matter how tired I felt.
My Apple Watch tracks sleep (testing has shown that it actually does so with surprising accuracy) and that data verified what I felt: when I actually managed to sleep at all, I wasn’t dropping into the deeper stages of sleep our brains and bodies require to do the considerable housecleaning and rebuilding they do each night.
The whole thing hit a crescendo in October, when I started getting hit with stretches of two, three, even four back-to-back days with sub-five hours sleep each night, and in some cases, even less than three.
Just to rub salt in the wound, I discovered an Apple Watch won’t even bother to track your sleep stages if you get less than three hours. At the end of one of those unspeakably awful nights I could practically hear my watch laughing at me. “Feh. Details schmetails. Why bother? You’re screwed and we both know it.”
Insomnia and recovery (or lack thereof)
How does all this relate to posting here on the blog? Well, I do have a full-time job, plus I train multiple times a week and have a spouse and all the other obligations of life.
Since starting this blog last year, early mornings have been my time to write and basically do everything else relating to the blog, the website, social media posts, strategy, trying to build a brand…. You get the idea.
Normally I wouldn’t talk about my sleep problems here, and hopefully it doesn’t come across as complaining. I’m sharing because this is a menopause-related problem, and I’ve discovered in dealing with this that insomnia is a pervasive problem for those of us in that phase of life. As many as 60% of perimenopausal and menopausal women suffer from insomnia or disordered sleep.
Plus, being a strength athlete adds a huge additional dimension to the issue. I know very well that the lack of sleep is impeding my recovery, and therefore my gains. We need sleep in general, and we also need as much deeper sleep as possible, because that’s when our bodies repair and build muscle. My coach has been reluctant to even program heavy lifts due to concern about the increased potential for injury due to this lack of recovery .
It’s bad enough not being able to sleep—in fact, it’s a form of torture I admit I never fully understood or viewed with sufficient sympathy until going through it myself.
But doing everything in your power to recover properly and still being unable to do so is a form of torture all its own. The whole thing creates an anxiety/stress spiral, which of course just contributes to the lack of recovery (our bodies don’t differentiate between physical and emotional stress) and makes it even harder to sleep. It’s almost like suffering with an injury or illness.
So yeah. Good times.
I’m still very much in combat mode, and I hesitate to say I’ve found reliable solutions, but I’ve started to make some good progress with a combination of hormone replacement therapy, which I started directly as a response to this problem (and which is helping) and a variety of supplements and behavior changes that support healthy sleep.
There’s a silver lining here. My desperation has driven me to learn more than I ever wanted to learn about insomnia.
In my pursuit of answers, I’ve developed a better understanding of what can causes insomnia as we age, and especially in perimenopause and menopause; how those of us who strength train can compensate at least a bit for poor sleep; the mechanisms of menopause and how they interface with muscle preservation and gain; hormone replacement therapy…. and I could probably open a business reselling all of the supplements I’ve been researching and trying.
This means I can pass what I’ve been learning along to you. Even if these issues don’t directly affect you now (and hopefully they never will), you probably know more than one person they DO affect: your mother, grandmother, other family members or friends. And not to take anything away from the men: plenty of you suffer with this as well.
That’s the brutal truth here: age-related sleep disorders affect everyone, and then on top of that, menopause can create a double-whammy for older women.
One overarching thing I’ve learned is that, like strength training, this is an area where far too little research has been done and far too many of us are suffering in ways we might be able to avoid, or at least mitigate, with more information and understanding.
So I will share what I’m learning, I promise!
For now, though, I just felt that I owed you an explanation, and some context.
I’m hoping the improvements to my sleep in recent days and weeks will turn out to be lasting and consistent, so I can get back to a more regular posting schedule here, and start working on some exciting things I want to develop and launch in 2024.
In the meantime, whatever it takes, I’ll be back with more posts related to this topic and related ones as well, so we can all go down this rabbit hole together.
Do you suffer from insomnia, whether age/menopause-related or otherwise? Whether you want to share thoughts and experiences, ask questions I can try to answer, or simply vent to an understanding ear
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