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The Vegan Menopause Podcast -- Ep. 11 -- Menopause and Sleep

Updated: Apr 5

Do you find that since perimenopause started, it’s become increasingly more difficult to sleep?

Not only can falling asleep take longer, you may wake up too early, or be awake for a couple of hours in the middle of your sleep.

It’s a normal part of aging that our sleep patterns change and we start to spend less time in REM sleep, or deep sleep, and more time in lighter sleep.  So you may get woken up more easily by noises outside or your partner snoring, whereas before you could sleep through anything

Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain by increasing stress - whether you feel more stressed or not, the sleep deprivation increases sympathetic nervous system activation.  It also disrupts hormones that regulate appetite.  So you may feel more hungry and cravings can become stronger.

Lack of sleep also makes it less likely that you will want to exercise.  It can lower your motivation to get moving, there is also decreased energy for the actual workout, and poor sleep also means poor recovery.

Estrogen and progesterone fluctuations can disrupt sleep by affecting breathing, mood, stress levels, and body temperature.

Insufficient sleep also can mean issues with cognition, concentration, and worse health in general.

Personally, I find three things that are guaranteed to affect my sleep.

  1. Having a long nap in the afternoon.  I can nap for 20 minutes and wake up feeling fine, my body will naturally wake up after that amount of time, but if I decide to continue sleeping for an hour or more, I wake up feeling groggy and kind of depressed, and that feeling can take quite a while to resolve.  And then when I go to bed that night, I have difficulty sleeping.

  2. Caffeine.  This includes chocolate. I can’t have any caffeinated tea or coffee after approximately 2:00 pm.  Otherwise I will be lying awake for hours at night.

  3. Exercise.  If I get in some exercise earlier in the day, not too late at night, that helps me sleep.  If I have a day where I don’t move much, I have a hard time falling asleep.

  4. Meal times.  Ideally I should eat no later than two hours before bed.  Going to bed full can mean difficulty breathing, acid reflux, and just generally feeling uncomfortable.

Other things that help are going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every night. It can be luxurious to sleep in but then I can’t fall asleep at my usual time which can be a problem  if I have to get up early the next day.  So generally I don’t really sleep in past 8:00 am unless I really need to.

A nice bath can help – candles, essential oils, bath salts, the whole deal.  Make it a sensual experience and a treat for yourself.  When your body temperature warms up and then drops, that can make you sleepy.  

Magnesium is a wonderful mineral that many people are deficient in, particularly people who eat a lot of processed foods, use alcohol, caffeine, or excess sugar.  Also non-organic food may be grown in deficient soil using synthetic fertilizers so we don’t always get a lot of magnesium in our diets.  

Magnesium relaxes muscle and helps with anxiety, depression, muscle cramps, menstrual pain, and most people sleep well after taking magnesium before bed. you can add magnesium salts to the bath or supplement.  The type of magnesium that helps with this is magnesium bisglycinate.  Magnesium sulphate is used more for laxative effects, which may be needed but doesn’t help as much with sleep.  Food sources of magnesium: dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and tofu.

Avoiding screens for an hour before bed, so the bath is great for that or a meditation audio.  TV, movies, or social media can be overstimulating and should be avoided.

Relaxation and calming the brain before bed is beneficial to take you out of that thought loop

A trick I learned from my dad is that if you keep thinking of something you need to do, to get up and write it down, so that you can let it go and let your mind rest.  Or even keep a notepad on the night table if you tend to think about tasks while you are lying awake at night.  It might be helpful to do some journaling for 20 minutes before bed to just get it all out of your head and onto the paper.

I can’t say enough good things about meditation as well.  It lowers your heart rate and relaxes your mind, making it the perfect before bed activity.  Check out my 8-minute guided beach meditation available on Youtube.  

And I hope you have a deep relaxing sleep tonight.

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