table lamp turned-on near bed

Cure for insomnia?

I used to be able to sleep on a proverbial washing line. Then I reached menopause and sleep and I became uncomfortable bedfellows. It started with me being able to fall asleep fine, then bam! 3am and I’m wide awake with my eyes huge like saucers, my mind racing about about a bunch of insignificances. Then it was the next sleep chapter: not being able to actually fall asleep even though I was literally beyond exhausted, only to just about catch a few zeds and then bam! there I was again wide awake at 3am. Same old, same old. It went on for years.

The problem with not sleeping, is waking up exhausted as opposed to refreshed. I would walk around in a semi awake state, my mind wandering off when it should have been laser focused. I’m quite sure you know the benefits of sleep – you don’t have to be a clinician to understand how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep. It is literally a gift from Mother Nature. It helps your body recover and heal; it helps restore your body and mind, in turn reducing stress levels, making it perfect for overall wellbeing; it helps you to replenish your personal stores so you are more productive and alert; apparently it helps reduce weight gain and strengthen your heart; and I’d like to add one of my own which is ‘time being the healer’. However upset or troubled you might be, the benefit of those calm 8 or so hours can make a considerable difference to how you feel. That problem tends to diminish slowly but surely in my experience.

So the long and short of it is that sleep = great life; lack of sleep = disastrous life.

Thank you menopause for arguably one of the most hated symptoms. And if that weren’t enough, many of us also have night sweats. One of the most joyful experiences in life is effectively ruined for us going through menopause.

It really jars when my husband is blissfully snoozing away in the middle of the night while I am totally wired. There shouldn’t be jealousy in a marriage I know, but I can’t help it. And you know what I am going to say, I’m sure. Snoring. OMG just when you have managed to count 2.5million sheep and are finally getting to that peaceful place, he starts up. Not fair. Not fair at all.

I have tried most of the well known remedies such as limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, no spicy foods, no blue light. But 1) that made no difference and 2) ffs we need to have some fun in life.

Then one day I joined a course by @womb_alchemy on how to breathe to help alleviate symptoms of the menopause and there it was…Eureka! The Answer. The Holy Grail I had been looking for. Before I reveal it, you have to believe me when I say I’m actually being serious, I promise I am not having you on and secretly hiding a CCTV in your bedroom so the world can laugh at you.

Let me start by telling you why this amazing solution actually works.

Oxygen. If you can get more oxygen into your lungs, it will work harder for you. We need oxygen to stimulate brain activity, improve concentration, and boost memory, as well as help us to actually live. The best way to get more oxygen into the lungs is to breathe through your nose. It allows you to take deeper breaths which uses the full capacity of the lungs which in turn pump out more oxygen to the rest of the body where it is needed. Our sinuses produce nitric oxide which combats harmful bacteria, and the little hairs in our nostrils filter out unwanted nasties including pollen which causes hayfever (another issue I have to contend with….actually strike that….. ‘had’!).

When we sleep we have absolutely no idea what we are up to! Our jaws can flop open and with that, aside from looking truly unattractive to any potential bed partners, we can find ourselves unwittingly snoring. Eek! But did you know, that we lose a lot of moisture when we breathe through our mouths? I always used to keep a glass of water on my night stand, and one of my middle-of-the-nightly antics was to slurp water. Imagine losing moisture over an 8 hour period. Some say we can lose as much as 40%. That would explain the thirst in the night, and mouth feeling like the bottom of a birdcage in the morning. Apparently, and it does make sense to me, we really need that moisture. It helps feed the brain – which is made up of a phenomenal 75% water – which in turn helps with brain function, and woohoo also improves the complexion.

The answer must be to try and ensure we breathe through our noses when we sleep, surely? So, finally, let me introduce you to the Holy Grail, the answer you have been seeking! Drum roll please!

My personal, beloved and well used microporous tape

Sleep tape! ‘What is it?’ you might ask. It is microporous tape that you use for sticking bandages to the skin. It is almost like paper, kind to skin and available from any chemist for pennies. You just stick it across your both your lips before you go to sleep and in time, you will feel comfortable with it and will sleep, sleep, sleep like a proverbial baby. Because you will retain moisture you shouldn’t need to drink in the night. Because, you are breathing through your nose, you will be breathing more effectively and more deeply, taking in more oxygen. If you are a hayfever sufferer, you might experience reduced symptoms (mine were often bad at night). And because your jaw won’t flop open, you reduce the chances of you snoring. I know a lot of you go to the loo in the night, not sure if this will help with that – do please let me know if it does/doesn’t.

All taped up and ready for bed

The first time I tried it, I went all dramatic in the night, ripped it off (probably gave myself a nice, hair-free upper lip too – excellent!) and threw it across the room in my semi sleep. I woke up the next morning with it stuck to my elbow. But I persevered. The next night I tried again and slept through the entire night and woke with it still stuck to my lips. I damn nearly cried, I was so happy to have slept.

Then a very special and unexpected perk came my way. My husband, who is perfect in every conceivable way, except for when he snores, decided he was going to try it to see if it would stop him from snoring. Yup he’s a keeper. As he is covered in facial bristle, he decided to try the ‘rabbit method’ of a small vertical piece of tape in the middle of his lips. The first night, as per mine, he was in the ‘getting used to it’ mode and it was actually pretty funny to see him trying to squeeze a snore out of the side of his mouth! Night two, we were cooking on gas and he was perfect. NO ……MORE …….SNORING.

All that said, we do look hilarious, there’s no denying it.

At the time of writing I am on night 20 of using the tape. I confess I missed one night as I had had a bit much to drink and decided not to use it (actually not really sure why, come to think of it). I might be imagining it but I did think my jaw stayed in place and I didn’t snore. Can’t remember if I slept through the night – I think I did but that might have been the wine.

Some people I’ve spoken to about it are a bit nervous they might suffocate in their sleep. If your nasal airways are clear, you don’t have a cold or any underlying condition, then I cannot see why you would. Just try breathing through your nose when you are fully conscious – still alive? Exactly.

I don’t think I want to do this forever. Not particularly attractive granted. I am hoping that I will train myself to keep my mouth closed when I sleep and continue on this absolutely amazing experience of sleeping that so many people take for granted. Sweet dreams everyone zzz …….

PS I do need to caveat this! If you have any breathing issues or sleep apnea then I wouldn’t try this. If in doubt, talk to your doctor.

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