What are the best ways to optimise sleep during menopause?
Disrupted sleep patterns are one of the biggest complaints from women who are in perimenopause and menopause. In fact, studies show that 39% to 47% of perimenopausal women and 35% of postmenopausal women suffer disrupted sleep to at least some degree.
Most of us have had the odd dodgy night, and so know that when we don’t sleep well it has a full-body effect the next day!
It impacts our ability to think straight and make decisions, it influences what we eat as we often seek out sugary foods and caffeine to keep us going, because we feel exhausted. We are much less likely to stick to our exercise routines and of course, it can make us cranky and snappy with other people.
So, what happens during those menopause years that makes getting 8 hours so difficult?
Nutritional Therapist Claire Foss is the founder of FOSS Nutrition. Specialising in women's health using her 4 key pillars - Food, Offline, Sleep and Stress, Claire often works with clients who are already taking HRT but are still struggling with menopausal symptoms such as crippling an
Toilet breaks – As oestrogen levels drop it impacts our bladder function as does the natural aging process, so our bladders aren’t as efficient as they were in our 20’s and 30’s.
Alcohol – Many women turn to alcohol in menopause as they feel it helps to relax and sleep, but, alcohol creates fragmented sleep, whilst also increasing the need for toilet breaks in the night.
Screens – The blue light from screens such as laptops, mobile phones, and the TV in the evenings interrupts our natural circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) – in effect, we are basically telling our body that it is still daytime when actually nighttime and dark outside.
Night Sweats – Sometimes we manage to fall asleep only to be woken by night sweats! You wake up feeling like you’re on fire, the sweat has drenched your PJs which now leave you feeling cold, damp, and annoyed.
Blood Sugar – Low blood sugar levels during the night jerk us awake as our body needs to access stored sugar, this is also referred to as the ‘dawn phenomenon’ as it usually happens wakes us around 3 or 4 a.m.
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5 Sleep Friendly Habits
Nutrition – Keeping blood sugar levels stable is key during menopause which means reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed during the day. Combine this with adequate protein and healthy fat sources at each meal and you’re onto a winning combination.
Breakfast – Make breakfast a savoury meal. Lots of us eat porridge, bagels, toast, or granola and this is basically like eating pudding for breakfast. It spikes our blood sugar and sets us up for a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar throughout the day and night. Which impacts our mood, energy, and an insatiable appetite for ultra-processed foods.
Cool and Dark Room – It's much easier to sleep and stay asleep if your room is on the cooler side and dark. The ideal bedroom temperature is 18’C with black-out blinds. Avoid anything hot before bed such as baths and drinks and have a fan at hand.
Consistency – Having a bedroom routine is like an anchor for sleeping patterns. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time, even at weekends. Being consistent can help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Supplements – Magnesium is an essential mineral and plays a role in over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including those linked to sleep. My favourite supplement for sleep is magnesium glycinate which means it's bound to glycine, which is an amino acid, so it is easier for the body to absorb. Magnesium glycinate may help relax both the mind and body with its calming properties which help promote restful sleep.
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Sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health, alongside nutrition, stress management, and regular movement. These become even more important during menopause as our bodies change and adapt, so my advice is if you want to feel happy and balanced during the transition then please do make sleep a priority and use the tools above to find a sleep routine that works for you.