Gayle's Bedroom Secrets During Menopause | Stella
Her story
5 mins

Gayle’s bedroom secrets during menopause

byClaire Sykes

Gayle, 53, is a professional-development consultant for corporations around the US and as dedicated to her own personal growth as her clients are to theirs. So when her menopause symptoms started, she didn’t waste a minute. She told me all about it by phone from the small Montana city she and her husband Lewis call home.

What symptoms were you able to see retrospectively once you reached menopause?

My periods became sporadic about a year and a half before menopause. And they’d always been reliable and easy.

What was the first menopause symptom you noticed?

Trouble sleeping, which I still have. I fall asleep just fine around 9pm, then I wake up around 12:30 to 2am and often stay awake for maybe an hour. Eventually I fall back to sleep. The next day I feel sluggish and I’m not nearly as alert or productive. I know it’s not good for me physically or mentally.

How have you tried to improve your sleep?

Right away I got a bunch of books about sleep and took their advice. I learned that we have 90-minute sleep cycles and that it’s best to sleep through them, so you get the REM stage. And to get seven to eight hours of solid sleep. 

I wanted to get up at 6am, so I counted back in 90-minute chunks to seven and half hours before that, and 10:30pm was when I should fall asleep. Also, at least two hours before you lie down, stop eating. And no more screen time. That’s easy for Lewis and me. We’re compatible with our sleep habits, but we have other challenges in the bedroom.

There are moments when I think, ‘This really sucks’. But I know I won’t stay in that low place, because I know the mind is a muscle that can be strengthened by an intentionally positive attitude, which I have.”

I assume you mean sexual ones?

Yes. Since menopause, my libido has dropped significantly. I adore my fine husband. We’ve been married for over 20 years. We’ve always enjoyed sex, but for the past couple of years it’s been wonky. I’ve been pondering lately that there are so many messages out there in our culture that people should be enjoying sex until they die. Why is our culture so consumed with sexual activity? 

Lewis and I are very affectionate. We hold hands, touch, kiss, hug. It’s all positive, emotionally. That’s great. But as far as my libido, where did it go? I want to want sex. I want to enjoy it again. I want to be excited about being sexual with my husband and I want him to enjoy this part of our marriage, too. Neither of us have any negative experiences in our background with sex, so what gives?

Read more about menopause and lower sex drive.

In what ways do you have less of a sex drive?

I just don’t have the desire. I haven’t had any erotic dreams for a couple of years and I used to have them regularly. Nothing wild, just a feeling of sexual pleasure. When Lewis and I do try to have intercourse, it’s uncomfortable for me, even painful sometimes. And he is so kind and supportive. He never forces it. And we’re both willing to be creative.

What have you tried?

We frequently talk about it and ask, What do we need to do? And that’s good. Like maybe we should find a retreat. Is there one for rekindling your sex life? Sometimes not being sexual with each other is not such a critical issue. And yet, isn’t it? 

Sex fundamentally deepens relationships. And it can do that if you put it top of mind. But it’s not just a mindset. It’s got to be more than that. I can pleasure Lewis and he does me, and he likes it and likes that it makes me happy. We’ve used lubricants. We even went to a class on cunnilingus. So what other tools do we need to have? 

I’m an interested student. Well, one thing is exercise. I’ve gone back to working with a trainer in a small-group setting. Exercise is a good elixir. And feeling strong and invigorated from that, and rested from enough sleep, I think will help with my sex drive. And I do feel better when I eat well. 

Read more tips on how to manage low libido during menopause.

What has your diet been like since menopause?

I used to have an iron stomach and enjoy eating whatever I wanted without any negative reaction. I started noticing in the last year or two that I felt slightly nauseous after dinner sometimes. Also, before menopause I didn’t feel any ill effects from caffeine and now, especially with black tea, my stomach feels unsettled. I can still enjoy dark chocolate, 70%.

So I’ve been paying attention and experimenting with different foods. Thank goodness for herbal teas. And I reduced my alcohol, but I never drank a lot anyway, and I’ll have grape juice instead. I don’t eat a lot of refined sugar. Instead I use honey and maple syrup, sparingly. 

And I’m curious if dairy has an impact. Recently, Lewis and I shifted from skim milk to 2% and may move to whole, since I’ve read that it’s better to have healthy animal fat than vegetable, except for olive and a couple of other oils. I could eat bread at all three meals a day, but there’s not a lot of nutritional value in processed carbs, or rice. So I’m letting them go. I love lots of greens, cooked or raw, and know they’re good for me. Beans, lentils, and quinoa give me the same satisfaction. 

Read more about menopause and nutrition.

How are you keeping the best attitude?

There are moments when I think, “This really sucks.” And I let myself whine and complain and bottom out. Why keep spinning my wheels in quicksand? Pull the car over and put it in park. So I shut my computer off, take a hot bath, or nap on the couch. I give myself the grace and the space. And I have friends I can call. They’re critical. And I know I won’t stay in that low place, because I know the mind is a muscle that can be strengthened by an intentionally positive attitude, which I have. And then let’s get on with it.

Read more about menopause on our blog or in our symptoms library.