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Home/Blog/Menopause and Sleep, Plus Tips to Help Navigate

Menopause and Sleep, Plus Tips to Help Navigate

By Jill Levy

August 8, 2023

Menopause and sleep

It can be late 30s, in the 40s or as late as the 50s. When women reach a certain age, menopausal-like symptoms begin to show themselves, before hitting true menopause. This is called perimenopause, and perimenopause, even though it’s just as normal as menopause is, can be challenging as well.

So that we’re all on the same page definition-wise, though, menopause occurs as a natural, normal biological process when women’s menses cease to occur. Generally speaking, for most women, it typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 58 — with an average age of 51 or 52, according to some sources. However, every woman is different.  

Women officially reach menopause when they have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. 

The road to menopause, however, is typically preceded by pre-menopause and perimenopause.  

Pre-menopause is generally characterized as a time when women’s hormones begin to shift, although they (women) may have no awareness of the changes — yet. 

Perimenopause, which occurs “around” and leading up to menopause, also known as the “menopausal transition,” commonly occurs during a woman’s 40s. That’s typically when women become aware of some changes. Some women can be in perimenopause for years or even up to a decade or more.  

While perimenopause and menopause are both natural parts of aging, and therefore not “problems to solve,” it’s normal and expected to experience changes and certain symptoms during this transition. 

Symptoms can include normal fluctuations in periods, hot flashes, night sweats, and other impacts, including to one’s outlook and sleep. Here we discuss why sleep can be affected and some tips for navigating it. 

As always, however, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle routine. 

How Perimenopause and Menopause Can Affect Sleep

Perimenopause usually starts sometime during a woman’s mid-40s and, for some women, can last for several years before transitioning into menopause. It’s also when sleep may be impacted  for some women, as hot flashes and night sweats can often occur at night and occasionally interrupt a good night’s sleep.  

During perimenopause, both ovarian function and estrogen production naturally are affected, and as a result, a woman’s cycle can be somewhat unpredictable. Sleep can be impacted because of a decrease in  reproductive hormones in the body. The decrease of estrogen particularly seems to impact the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that’s often referred to as “the thermostat of the body,” as it regulates body temperature, sleep patterns, sex hormones, moods and appetite.

Hot flashes and night sweats feel like heat suddenly starting to spread throughout the body, often causing sweating and skin redness. A “hot flash” is the term given to the redness that’s caused by an increase in body temperature. In combination, the effects on sleep may persist and some affected might start to wake up sweaty and hot.

Tips for Navigating Perimenopausal and Menopausal Effects on Sleep 

1. Exercise

One of the best ways to combat many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause is to make exercise a regular part of your daily routine. Exercise works well for menopausal women, as it boosts serotonin levels — thereby improving your mindset, your appetite and helping you sleep.

Try to complete 30 minutes of aerobic activity four times per week at least, as well as performing weight training three to four times a week. 

2. Supplements, Including Herbal Ones

Many menopause-focused supplements, herbs and foods contain plant phytoestrogens which have estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects or hormone-balancing properties that can help ease this transition period. Again, always consult with your healthcare professional first, especially if you have medical conditions and take medications.

Black Cohosh

An herb and root that has been used to support women’s reproductive health for centuries, black cohosh naturally contains chemicals that can be beneficial to the body, including for hormonal support and promoting overall sleep quality. Research indicates that black cohosh needs to be taken consistently for 3–6 months before seeing results, so consistency is important when using this herb. 

You’ll find organic fermented black cohosh in Ancient Nutrition’s Women’s Hormone Balance capsules, which support healthy energy, help reduce fatigue and effects of stress, and promote a positive mindset and reproductive health.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi, known scientifically as Ganoderma lucidum and popularly as “the king of herbs” or “10,000-year mushroom,” has been a go-to for thousands of years in the Asian region for promoting bodily balance.

Reishi is also generally considered an adaptogen and body tonic, helping the body to “adapt” its responses to stressors to help support the health of the whole body. It’s also used as a tonic that may help to “tone” and energize systems in the body, including a healthy immune system. 

For help maintaining overall balance, consider taking Ancient Nutrition’s Reishi Stress and Immune Support capsules.

Vitex

While more studies need to be conducted, some have shown that vitex can help relieve hot flashes. With many of the same hormone-balancing properties as black cohosh, it assists in regulating hormones tied to sleep, when taken as directed.

Red Clover

Red clover contains isoflavones that have positive effects in balancing estrogen — which can positively impact hot flashes and sleep.

St. John’s Wort

While more studies need to be conducted, some indicate that St. John’s wort may be able to help promote a positive mental outlook, more restful sleep and make the overall transition to menopause a bit easier.

Licorice Root

Licorice root also appears to have an estrogen-balancing effect in women, and, while more studies are needed, one study shows that it can help reduce the duration of hot flashes when taken as directed.

Meanwhile, these supplements can help promote a health response to stress and help support more restful sleep:

  • Ancient Nutrition’s Stress and Sleep Support formula — It can help you to sleep more restfully due to its ability to support how your body adapts to stress. This formula features several botanical and adaptogenic ingredients — such as reishi mushroom, passion flower, ashwagandha and lavender — that have long been used in health traditions, such as Chinese Herbalism, to promote restful sleep. 

  • Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein Beauty + Sleep — This formula features 10 types of collagen protein along with botanicals including organic ashwagandha and magnesium for restful sleep support. Try adding one heaping scoop to warm water or nut milk before going to sleep. Collagen can also help address menopausal hair changes. (There’s also Collagen Beauty + Sleep capsules that can be taken with water.)

  • Ancient Nutrition’s Organic Ashwagandha — Ashwagandha has been widely known for centuries in Ayurvedic traditions to promote better sleep, help promote a healthy response to stress and promote a positive mindset. It can be taken in a convenient once daily tablet, such as with water or your favorite beverage. Take it with or without food, but try to be consistent to see the best results.

3. A Healthy Diet to Help Promote Healthy Hormones

Eating a healthy diet is an often overlooked way to navigate perimenopause and menopause. Tips for eating a healthy diet to help promote healthy hormones include:

  • Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables every day. Not only during menopause (or any of the pre-menopause stages), but throughout your entire life, it’s wise to eat fresh, locally grown organic foods that have undergone the least processing possible.

  • Due to impacts on muscles and metabolism, it’s more important than ever to eat high-protein foods, limit processed foods and focus on eating a clean diet.

  • Also, some people find that consuming moderate amounts of protein before bed helps them to sleep more soundly, likely because protein foods and supplements contain amino acids that are needed for the body to produce calming neurotransmitters.

  • Keep in mind that you might need to consume less calories overall in order to maintain a healthy weight. Limit “empty calories” by reducing your intake of packaged or processed foods, added sugar, refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, alcohol and refined oils.

  • Eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale. They contain indole-3-carbinol, which naturally helps to balance estrogen levels. These veggies are also high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and electrolytes that are important for blood pressure and heart health.

  • Fill up on high-fiber foods to help control your appetite, boost digestive health and benefit your heart. Some studies have even found that diets higher in fiber might help to balance production of estrogen.

  • Drink plenty of pure, fresh water.

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