Insomnia is such a universal problem. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t struggled with this at some point. In fact, while I was in acupuncture school I was taught that if a patient is dealing with insomnia along with whatever else they were being treated for, until you resolve the insomnia you may not make much progress on the other issue.
Insomnia can especially become a problem for women dealing with menopause, or those who tend to run on the warm side in general. Women dealing with menopause tend to have hot flashes and/or night sweats, and the hot flashes are usually more prevalent at night. And those who are post-menopausal just tend to run warmer even without hot flashes or night sweats. And some of you have just always tended to run on the warm side.
So, what to do about it? Cool down. Here are a few tips.
First, if you tend to wake up during the night, start checking in with yourself and see if you feel a little on the warm side. Even a little warm can be enough to trigger your body to wake up, and can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And if you wake with racing thoughts, and you’re warm, finding ways to stay cooler at night may help reduce the racing thoughts. Overheating and feeling anxious seem to commonly go together.
Second, find ways to cool down! Less bedding, less clothing, and finding things to eat/drink a while before bed that are cooling. In Eastern medicine foods are categorized in several ways, and one of them is whether they are warming, cooling or neutral in the way that your body interacts with them. If you tend to have a snack in the evening, think about eating something that is cooling, and avoiding things that can heat you up.
Alfalfa sprouts, apples, asparagus, barley, beets, broccoli, cabbage (savoy and napa), cauliflower, celery, chard, crab, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, kelp, milk, millet, mung bean, pear, radish, soy, spinach, spirulina, tempeh, tofu, tomato, watermelon, wheat, yogurt, zucchini. Eat more freshly cooked vegetables, and especially dark, leafy greens, but don’t go overboard eating cold, raw foods (too much cold raw food can cause digestive issues).
If you want an easy way to cool your body down without eating, try drinking peppermint tea. This can be either hot or cold tea. Have a cup an hour or so before bed. I’ve had several people tell me this little trick alone helped take the edge off of the overheating and allowed them to get a little better quality sleep.
Things to avoid because they’re warming:
Alcohol, black pepper, cheese, chicken, chilies, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, eggs, excessive salt, garlic, ginger, heated oils, horseradish, mustard, peanuts, prawn, red meat, fatty meats, vinegar. If it feels warm going down, avoid it.
Avoid: spicy foods, deep frying, BBQ, overeating, roasting, short cooking times. Steam or stir fry is good, and soups/broths are also good.
So, take a look at what you’re eating and drinking in the evening, decrease the warming foods and drinks, and increase the cooling ones. And have a good night’s sleep.