Don’t let menopause sabotage sleep

Guarding good quality sleep is all about stress management as a woman approaches menopause. Menopause will often hit a woman when she's at a transition time with family and work demands. Add an endurance sport to the mix and stress can make it really challenging to walk through that menopause door smoothly. Sleep can be sabotaged either through night sweats, or high stress hormones for other reasons.

don't let menopause sabotage your sleep - women of the new generation

Stress includes the physical stress of overtraining and the domino effect this can create at menopause. Over-exercise will drive cortisol via stress hormone pathways. This is a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks down tissue and in particular, muscle mass. Training programs that include active recovery (massage, saunas spas) will help to reduce physical stress on muscle groups and tendons.

The physical stress of overtraining will impact on sleep as it drives cortisol levels higher. Withania Somnifera (also known as Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng) is an adrenal support herb that can buffer the effect of cortisol, but this can be a complex issue to overcome that will also involve modification of training intensity. 

Other herbal choices to enhance sleep are worth trying: Zizyphus, Chamomile, Valerian and Hops can be taken together or separately for sleep issues. 

Melatonin at a dose of 2mg, up to 10 mg, taken in the evening, can also counteract the cortisol message an improve sleep quality.

Anything that puts a chemical load on the liver will compromise the body’s ability to gain good hormonal balance through menopause. Alcohol, high sugar diets, caffeine, and even simple medication like paracetamol are all liver loaders. Alcohol intake will have a direct effect on hot flush control. Nurturing liver health means a much smoother rite of passage through menopause, with less impact on quality of sleep. 

Herbal options for managing hot flushes and night sweats are worth considering as a first option. Red Clover deserves honourable mention. The active ingredients in Red Clover are the isoflavones. You will need 80 milligrams to control hot flushes. At 40 milligrams the isoflavones in Red Clover have been shown to support bone density. Black Cohosh has also been used traditionally for hot flushes. Rarely, a woman may have side effects from this product, which can cause liver inflammation.

If menopause symptoms are intolerable, discuss the pros and cons of bioidentical hormone options versus standard HRT with your doctor. It is important to consider both risks and benefits of a particular option. Formal HRT is back in fashion with the medical profession. If we keep the dose low and use a transdermal application, whether it be a (patch or a cream), we can minimize the effect of that particular hormone on the liver. If we limit its use to less than 12 months, the known breast cancer risk with the estrogen component of HRT is reduced.

Remember that the rule of common sense and balance is king when it comes to optimal wellness. Find your “sweet spot’ with exercise and listen to your body as it makes the transition through your 40s 50s and 60s.

Dr Karen Coates