We live in a society where everything is extremely fast-paced and there are more items on our to-do list than we could possibly have time for. No matter what our age, It seems the first thing to go is getting adequate sleep. There are many reasons why this is one of the biggest mistakes we could make.
Sleep Keeps Us Physically Healthy
According to the CDC, prolonged periods of inadequate sleep can put us at a greater risk of high blood pressure and subsequent heart disease and stroke. Because sleep helps regulate our blood sugar, not getting enough shut-eye can contribute to type 2 diabetes. (1
Missing Weight Loss?
There is a strong link between weight gain and poor sleep. Those who get enough sleep tend to weigh significantly less than those who lack sleep. Sleep deprivation disrupts appetite hormones, so tired people don’t have the appetite control others have. (2
Improved Immune System
It’s been shown that even a small loss of sleep impairs your immune system. With the common cold, for instance, people who sleep just one hour less than necessary are three times more likely to develop it. Poor sleep increases undesirable inflammation markers and cell damage, further decreasing a healthy immune response. (2
Other reasons to keep a great sleep schedule include (2
- Avoiding depression
- Increasing concentration and productivity
- Maximising athletic performance
- Improving emotional responses
Unfortunately, getting caught up on sleep isn’t as easy as just going to bed earlier. One of the main reasons we don’t get enough sleep is stress. Stress keeps us awake, keeps us moving when we should be laying down and wakes us up in the middle of the night. When we’re sleep-deprived, we don’t think as quickly, feel as good, eat as well or feel as happy. This causes more stress during the day, less productivity, more to do and, therefore, more stress at night.
Once the cycle starts, it’s difficult to break. (3
) This can all be made exponentially worse during menopause.
How Does Menopause Affect Your Sleep?
You’d be hard-pressed to find any woman thrilled with any of the symptoms of menopause. One of the most frustrating is the repeated and seemingly constant sleep disruptions, including insomnia, frequent waking and reduced quality of sleep. This is a widespread issue affecting over 60% of women. Women going through or are post-menopausal report: (4
- Taking 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep
- Unable to get more than six hours of sleep at a time
- Waking too early
- Not feeling refreshed or rested after sleep
- Feeling tired, groggy and sleepy all day
- Constantly worrying about sleep
When you’re going through menopause, your oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease. These fluctuations directly affect your ability to get quality sleep – progesterone is known as a sleep-producing hormone, so it’s harder to fall and stay asleep.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Two of the most dreaded symptoms of menopause are hot flashes and night sweats – both of which wake women up and make it very difficult to fall back to sleep. These issues are caused by drops in hormones that cause spikes in adrenaline, mimicking the fight or flight response. (4
Solutions That Work Fast
Now, the good news. There are wonderful, natural solutions for menopausal women who struggle with getting a healthy amount of sleep. The better news? These are scientifically proven to help. There are so few remedies for issues women suffer through during this time, so we’ve created a list of what has been shown to actually work.
1. Valerian Root Extract
Valerian is a perennial that grows wild throughout North America, Europe and Asia. While it produces pretty white, pink or purple flowers, it’s normally the root that is turned into an herbal preparation.
How It Works
Researchers believe Valerian Root helps the body produce more of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in the brain. It’s GAMA that drugs like Valium and XANAX produce, so it has a very real calming effect on the body. (5
Valerian root is also used for natural anxiety management, so it tackles two big issues menopausal women face, in one solution.
2. Turmeric Extract 95% Curcuminoids
Turmeric has gained an incredible amount of popularity for its anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also making headlines for helping not just with sleep but also with the symptoms of lack of sleep. Curcuminoids are what give turmeric its bright yellow colour and much of its health benefits.
How It Works
Studies show turmeric protects the body against the oxidative damage that comes with sleep deprivation. It’s shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood, allowing menopausal women to find a calm state during the day so they avoid worrying about sleep and are more relaxed at bedtime. Also, studies show chronic inflammation leads to anxiety and depression, which results in insomnia. Turmeric is a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory. (6
3. Reishi Mushroom Extract
This ancient mushroom grows in the hot and humid conditions of parts of Asia. These mushrooms can be eaten fresh, but they are often seen in powdered forms of the whole mushroom or in extracts of the specific molecules thought to be responsible for its health benefits. Both forms have been studied for the effects it provides, including sleep benefits.
How It Works
One of its best-known effects is to reduce fatigue, anxiety and depression. This is due mainly to the immense nutritional punch of fibres, peptides, mineral elements, amino acids and vitamins one little mushroom has. Reducing fatigue can lessen the sleep stress menopausal women report feeling during the day. Reducing depression and anxiety can also contribute to being able to fall asleep easier. Over an eight-week period, people taking this supplement reported a higher sense of wellbeing. (7
4. Passionflower Extract
There are over 500 species of passionflower in the world, and almost each of them has long been used for its medicinal benefits. Native Americans used them to treat wounds, and Europeans have used the flowers to treat agitation and anxiety. Its fruit even makes a tasty beverage. Today, we use it for, among other things, helping people sleep.
How It Works
Some studies suggest it helps menopausal women with sleep because it boosts the GABA in their brains. Remember GABA is naturally produced and lowers the brain’s activity so you can relax and sleep. In a published trial, people who drank an herbal tea of passionflower reported better-quality sleep after just seven days. (8
5. Kakadu Plum
This very small stone fruit is found in the Eucalypt open woodlands across Northern Australia. Traditionally, they were used to treat the common cold and flu and also as an antiseptic. Now, its high nutritional value and all the health benefits that come with it are being widely recognised, including helping with sleep issues.
How It Works
This fruit has the highest recorded natural amount of Vitamin C ever, containing over 3,000% of the daily recommended value. This much vitamin C helps reduce the number of free radicals in the body, and it supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin C also lowers blood pressure, helping the body feel less stress. When you feel your body relax, it’s often easier for your mind to rest and sleep to come. (9
Who isn’t calmed by a hot cup of tea, especially in the evening? In fact, a part of many people’s nighttime rituals before sleep is a hot cup of tea. Tea leaves contain an amino acid called L-theanine – a powerful sleep aid.
How It Works
L-theanine elevates GABA, dopamine and serotonin levels, all chemicals in the brain known to regulate emotions, mood and sleep. While it boosts calming chemicals, it also enhances alpha brain waves. These are the brain waves prevalent during periods of calm, meditation and REM sleep. It improves sleep by helping women become more relaxed while helping to improve the quality of their sleep. (10
7. Himalayan Crystal Salt
You may know this salt from the colourful lamps you see peppered around offices and homes you visit. Just using this salt for lamps is a mistake. Taken from a salt mine near the Himalayan foothills in Pakistan, it gets its colourful hue from trace minerals like magnesium and potassium. It has many health benefits, some of which just might help people sleep.
How It Works
Taking Himalayan crystal salt replenishes electrolytes you may not even know you’re missing. Many menopausal women suffer from restless legs or leg cramps that keep them awake, and this can help those muscles immensely, allowing your body to rest and relax. A relaxed body makes sleep come easier. (11
8. Magnesium Glycinate
Magnesium is a favourite go-to for help with sleeping, particularly in postmenopausal women, 84% of whom are magnesium-deficient. (12
) Magnesium is a mineral necessary for hundreds of processes in the human body but especially in the brain, heart and muscles. One of its most popular uses is its being a sleep aid.
How It Works
Studies show magnesium helps regulate the body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that guides our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium also increases GABA, the chemical in our brains that calms us. It’s thought increasing magnesium in those who are deficient of the mineral will optimise both quality and quantity of sleep.
9. Zinc Picolinate
Zinc is called a trace mineral, meaning a very small amount is needed for optimal health – but it is needed. The prevalence of the mineral in the human body is second only to iron. Zinc is involved in more than 1,000 genetic instructions. One process it’s now thought to be a part of is sleep.
How It Works
While it doesn’t have a sedative effect, meaning it doesn’t trigger sleep, it does reduce the amount of time needed to fall asleep. It also increases the overall amount of sleep people get and has been shown to reduce activity – tossing and turning, during sleep. (13
There Is Hope
If you’re a peri or post-menopausal woman struggling with sleep issues, there are natural resources available to help you get back on track to feeling more well-rested. A better night’s sleep will give you a better sense of overall wellbeing and happiness.