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Ask Jean Hailes about sleep

Ask Jean Hailes 15 Mar 2024
Woman asleep at work on a desk

In this instalment of Ask Jean Hailes, we answer your questions about sleep, including how to get better shut-eye.

I keep waking at 3 am – it’s so frustrating. What can I do?

Many women find themselves in your position – wide awake in the early hours, unable to get back to sleep. For healthy sleepers, waking several times each night is actually quite normal. They’ll fall back to sleep easily with no memory of waking up. The issue, as you’ve pointed out, is when you can’t get yourself back to sleep.

It depends on what’s causing the problem, but reducing stress around these wake-ups might help. If you find yourself awake, try not to panic or worry about not sleeping – and don’t check the clock.

Instead, get out of bed, sit in a chair or on the couch and enjoy the quiet time or do something non-stimulating, like reading in dim light. By getting up, you’ll train your brain to remember that your bed is for sleeping. Once you’re tired again, return to bed.

You can also chat to your doctor to try to find out what’s keeping you awake. Is it stress, a health condition or medication? Remember, alcohol can disrupt sleep too.

For more tips, see our back-to-sleep guide and speak to your doctor if the problem continues.

I have a glass of wine before bed to help me sleep. Is this okay?

Alcohol is a tempting sleep aid. It can make you sleepy and help you nod off quickly, but it stops you from getting a good night’s sleep.

What this means is that you might wake more often during the night, not get as much deep sleep or dreaming sleep, and you might be more likely to have nightmares and headaches. Alcohol makes you want to wee more during the night, which disrupts sleep, and in large amounts it can also affect your breathing, promoting snoring.

It’s a good idea to avoid alcohol four or more hours before going to bed. Also, try to follow the alcohol guidelines.

More booze-free sleep tips

Comedian Denise Scott talks all things sleep and wine with sleep expert Dr Moira Junge. Listen now.

My partner says I’ve started snoring. I’m 48 and so embarrassed. What can I do?

Firstly, try not to be embarrassed. Many men and women snore and it’s good that your partner’s pointed it out.

Snoring can be a sign of a health problem, such as obstructive sleep apnoea. It occurs when the muscles in your throat relax during sleep, stopping you from breathing. In women, risk of the condition rises after menopause due to big hormonal changes that can affect the muscles in your airway.

Because sleep apnoea can drain your energy, affect your mood, and boost your chances of other serious health problems, it’s important not to ignore your snoring. Visit your doctor who might recommend you speak to a sleep specialist.

Also remember that treatment doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or complex. It might be something as simple as changing your body position during sleep, or your diet.

For more information, read Is it tiredness or sleep apnoea?

Menopause is ruining my sleep. How do I get some decent shut-eye?

From hot flushes and night sweats to mood changes and joint pain, it’s little wonder that menopause can have you tossing and turning. While some women sail through this life stage with no sleep disturbance, others can have mild to severe challenges. Fortunately for those affected, there are things you can do to improve your shut-eye.

Try to adopt healthy sleep habits, such as consistent go-to-bed and wake-up times. Also, avoid things that disrupt sleep, including caffeine and alcohol late in the day.

If hot flushes are a problem, consider wearing lightweight, cotton pyjamas to bed (or nothing at all), using natural bed linen and opting for layers of blankets rather than a heavy doona. Having drinking water on hand, plus using an ice pack and a fan, or air-conditioning, can help keep you cool overnight.

As for treatment options, menopausal hormone therapy, melatonin supplements and cognitive behavioural therapy can help with sleep. To find out if they’re right for you, speak to your GP.

For more information, head to our menopause web pages and tune in to our Sleep Talk podcast.

Want more answers?

Check out our sleep web pages for more insights.

All rea­son­able steps have been tak­en to ensure the infor­ma­tion cre­at­ed by Jean Hailes Foun­da­tion, and pub­lished on this web­site is accu­rate as at the time of its creation. 

Last updated: 
18 March 2024
Last reviewed: 
15 March 2024