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Menopausal – why can’t I sleep?

Alright, I know you’re tired, actually pretty exhausted from work, running a home…and the rest, so you go to bed but you can’t sleep?! How?! OR perhaps you drift off beautifully then wake up at some ungodly hour and can’t go back to sleep. That should be used as some form of torture!


Perhaps there’s no rhyme or reason for it or perhaps you wake up in a pool of your own sweat? Or you snore more? Both very normal at this stage of life!


YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Whether or not you talk about it with your friends at a similar stage of life, I promise you, you and many other women you spend your day to day with, are actually lying awake tossing and turning at the exact same time.


This not only impacts on mood and feelings of tiredness, but if you have followed the last couple of blogs (if not, why not? Go back and take a look, you might have missed a little bit of gold to take away to help your menopause experience!), you will realise that it will also impact our hunger and in turn our nutrition habits and in then perhaps weight gain and feelings of health and wellness. It’s all an interconnected system which is why, here, we focus on it ALL – anything other than a holistic approach will not work.


Today I want to go back to nutrition AND your sleep and how they can work together. Win win.


There are a number of reasons why our sleep during our menopausal years might suffer. Principally of course, it’s those hormonal fluctuations that we spoke about in the first blog of the series. Beyond there, night hot flushes and sweats might be a factor, even when the temperature is comfortable – kick the duvet off and it turns into an arctic blast – sound familiar? I’ve been there! Hormonal issues, menopause or not, mean this is super common. Alongside that, you need to wee more than ever in the night – why?


When our oestrogen levels drop, so does our bladder capacity meaning we might feel the need to get up multiple times in the night to use the loo – another VERY annoying side effect of the menopause. If we don’t though, we make getting back to sleep EVEN MORE difficult. It all feels like an unfair vicious cycle, I know. We’re told that drinking loads of water is the key to feeling healthy but that only feels like another way to keep ourselves up all night by peeing, so what’s a woman to do?!


Being dehydrated will potentially cause worse symptoms than being up all night, I want you to prioritise hydration, perhaps just avoid drinking big boluses of liquid within a couple of hours of going to bed. Our joints can hurt more, headaches will worsen, brain fog will worsen among many, many others if we avoid drinking as we should.


Another reason why our sleep might not be as optimal as it once was, is that our digestive systems can do funky things. Now of course, this can happen at any stage of our lives but during our menopause bloating, wind, tummy discomfort and our bowels just not feeling quite right can all contribute to rubbish sleep. Now I do want to say here that if you have ANY concerns about bodily functions or systems not working as they should, at this stage of your life or any other, please go to seek guidance from a medical professional, it’s probably nothing, or maybe that pesky menopause, but just be safe, don’t turn a blind eye, and get a second opinion – it might just save your life!


That hunger and those cravings we spoke about in the previous blogs too? Yep, they too can impact blood glucose levels ducking and diving, and again, impact our sleep. It’s that crazy vicious cycle again, which is why I am so passionate about coaching you to get all of these lifestyle factors optimal.


So Anna, what, practically, can we do about all of this? Let’s talk some practical take aways.


We can talk sleep hygiene another day – things like ambient room temperature, wearing cotton PJs although nakey sleeping, logically, might feel like the best option, clean bed sheets, light levels, routine, technology abstinence before bed – it all helps but today I wanted to delve deeper, as promised, into nutrition.


I know you feel like a couple of glasses of vino help you drift off into a beautifully deep sleep but I promise you, alcohol will severely impact your sleep quality, not allowing you to fall into that deep stage of sleep that ultimately causes us to feel rested the following day. Alcohol can also impact our body’s ability to regulate its own temperature and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the pay off in terms of hot flushes at that point is simply not worth it! Now this isn’t me telling you that you need to abstain from alcohol for the reminder of your days, I know it can be great for our social health but I’m simply encouraging you to pick your indulgences – it might be worth it, it might not? That’s for you to decide.


Beyond alcohol, let’s talk caffeine! You know I am a caffeine, or more a coffee fiend, it’s a big passion of mine, especially the café culture that comes with it, but if you have ever been through any coaching with me, you know that I am a big proponent of a caffeine ‘cut off’ each day. Similarly to alcohol, you might feel like you can drift off nicely to sleep no problem, you might even feel like you are a caffeine ‘non-responder’, but menopause or not, caffeine later in the day IS affecting your sleep quality and all of the other implications that come with that, no question about it. Again, is it worth it? Maybe, that’s for you to decide, with this one, I would probably argue not.


Next up, what time you eat, if you have the luxury and privilege within your schedule to decide, can have a big impact one our sleep. Again, if you know me, I talk a lot about sleep routines in general with reference to the fact that our bodies all THRIVE with a routine, our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm relies on a routine to help us to feel healthy. Routine meal timings can help with that. Whether you like to feel full or your body seems to feel better having finished digesting hours before bed, again, it is about working WITH your lifestyle routines, needs and preferences to find what works for you as an individual. That is why anything other than coaching that is individual and bespoke to you will not work long term.


Lastly, do you like to eat little and often, especially why it comes to a meal near bed time? Or do you like to eat less often but in bigger quantities? You need to experiment with your nutrition and not be afraid to try new things at this stage of your life as your body changes. It might be worth trying eating earlier and little and often through the afternoon rather than a big bolus of food so that your body is in a restful state and not still digesting the day’s food at bed time? Equally, if you are finding that you are going to bed hungry, that will, of course, not help either. Find YOUR balance. The same as we said in the last couple of blogs, it’s an experiment, notice routines, write them down, look for patterns and together we can figure what works for you.


I hope, so much, that after a little play with your routine, you have been able to take a little bit of gold that might just result in deeper and more restful sleep which in turn, impacts on your feelings of wellbeing from day to day. In the penultimate blog we are going to talk about a common one – feeling like you are in a furnace with all of the windows open and -5 degree temperatures while you wonder why everyone else is dithering? This one might just help!


Peace and love for now, A x

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