Menopause Insomnia – Yoga as Self Care
Menopause insomnia – you know the feeling, lying there exhausted wanting desperately to get back
to sleep, but the mind is wired, racing with thoughts about the day, and your
body just won’t relax.
Insomnia can hit particularly hard at menopause. Women who might
previously have enjoyed a full and deep night’s sleep might find themselves
waking several times due to night sweats, the need to wee, thirst and anxiety.
Sleep is essential for the body and brain to process what life throws at us, and
to reset. It’s when the lymphatic system can detox, when the brain can dream
and process emotions, and the endocrine system can regulate hormones.
With proper rest the various systems of the body get the chance to settle into
the ‘rest and digest’ mode.
Moving through menopause involves a huge hormonal rewiring job; we are
being reorganised, both physically and psychically, in preparation for our post
reproductive phase of life. The resulting fluctuating hormones can be jarring
on our whole system and we can find ourselves way more sensitive to
external stimuli and more susceptible to stress.
A vicious loop can play out between our hormonal flux, our stress response
and our ability to sleep. We can struggle more than usual to shift from the
‘fight or flight’ mode into the parasympathetic nervous system where deep rest
is possible. Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on our ability to cope the
next day; we can feel ‘not ourselves’, strung out and unable to achieve even
the simplest of tasks. There are long term physical, mental and emotional
health effects too.
Lifestyle changes can help: things like watching your intake of stimulants such
as coffee and spicy food, carefully managing your screen time, and letting
your bedroom be a sanctuary rather than an extension to your office. There is
no one ‘fix’; what works for one person, will not work for everyone. In the most
severe cases, insomnia can’t easily be solved. But there are small things that
we can do throughout the day to help and yoga can provide a hugely
Yoga practice turns down the intensity of modern life and teaches us to drop
into our deeper, calmer selves. We practice yoga as an embodied intention;
as a way of locating ourself amidst the changes, and steering the nervous
system away from the hyper-alert towards a place of rest.
Just close your eyes and place your hands on your belly and breathe into
them. Tune into your breath and notice how it rises and falls in your body. A
few minutes of this will help rest your nervous system and start to redress the
balance between rest and stimulation. You can practice this any time of day,
or even on waking in the night.
Before you go to bed try releasing the day’s stresses with viparitta karani (legs
up the wall pose). I like to raise my hips on a cushion which allows more
space for breath low in the belly and pelvic bowl, and I also find a lavender
scented eye pillow soothing when the mind is frazzled. Having your heart
above your head reverses the gravitational pull on your blood flow, bringing
calm and relief to overworked systems.
During the night if you feel a night sweat sweeping through, slide the covers
off and place your legs into an easy supported supta baddha konasana. This
pose is really effective for releasing excess body heat.
Yoga offers a wide variety of breathing, posture and meditation practices to
address sleep issues and to support the menopause transition. Keep a journal
to track your symptoms and make a note of which practices are most effective
for you right now.
When the reality of menopause insomnia symptoms leaves you feeling
unmoored and vulnerable, yoga can pave a way back to yourself, to your
innate resilience and to your natural ability to rest, and this can feel
Learn more with Tiffy George at two Yogarise workshops for menopause:
Sat 14th October, 10.00-12.00
Saturday 11th November, 13:30-15:30
These workshops are specifically tailored with yoga resources, tools and
practices to support the most common menopause symptoms. They will
provide an enjoyable and safe space where women can come together and
share their experiences, laugh and embrace the changes while also learning
from one another.
Tiffy George has been practising yoga since the 1990s. After completing a one-year full-time yoga teacher training with YogaArts in Australia, she qualified as an International Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher in 2002. She has continued to explore and study many forms of yoga with various teachers over the years: Astanga, Iyengar, restorative and therapeutic yoga, breathwork and meditation, and yoga for pregnancy and beyond. Most recently her ever-deepening passion has led her to develop additional expertise in Menopause YogaTM with Petra Coveney, as well as yoga for pelvic health with Leslie Howard. Tiffy’s classes and workshops offer a therapeutic route to finding and unravelling tension and moving towards greater ease and balance.