Sleep often becomes something of a holy grail once you enter perimenopause. And if you can’t find a way to navigate sleep issues it may travel with you through the menopause transition into post-menopause.
For some women, sleeplessness only becomes an issue once they’ve transitioned through menopause. Since sleep disorders can increase with age, this in one reason why. By the same token however, there are those for whom things improve post-menopause.
Whichever camp you fall into we know a disrupted sleep can be extraordinarily disabling and play havoc with your daily life.
A lack of sleep can contribute to:
- Lack of alertness
- Energy loss
- Brain fog
- Loss of libido
- High blood pressure
- Premature ageing of the skin
- Increased likelihood of car accidents
- Weight gain
What’s more, when you look at the above list a lot of those symptoms make sense. Even the Energiser Bunny winds down and comes to a full stop when his batteries run out.
And sleep time is when our human batteries recharge.
Sleep Loss & Weight Gain
What you may not realise is that poor sleep contributes to increased weight or more specifically, belly fat. Of course, we realise that fat settling itself around the abdomen is very distressing to some of you. Especially as it can proven to be very difficult to shift.
And while there can be a cascade of reasons behind this, a lack of sleep can be a contributory factor.
Furthermore, the reduced sleep levels of the 21st Century are believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic which has doubled since the 1980s.
One research manuscript stated that: “Sleep is an important modulator of neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism and sleep loss has been shown to result in metabolic and endocrine alterations, including decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentrations of cortisol, increased levels of ghrelin, decreased levels of leptin, and increased hunger and appetite.”
In layman’s terms, this says a lack of sleep and the associated disruption of blood sugar, the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol contributes to weight gain in a big way. Think about it for a second. Have you ever noticed you feel hungry more often if you’re having issues sleeping?
The paper goes on to say “sleep loss could also affect energy balance by increasing sedentary behaviour and decreasing non-exercising energy expenditure”. While it’s not well studied, it makes sense that fatigue makes you feel less prone to exercise and your resting metabolism go down. Contrarily, some studies have shown the non-exercise energy used goes up – perhaps due to tossing and turning at night.
The Circadian Rhythm & Sleep
Humans have 24-hour circadian rhythms that generally respond to light and dark. So as day moves into night the hormone melatonin is released. Subsequently, it lets the brain know it’s time to think about sleep. However, with the advent of electricity, our natural circadian rhythm has changed. What’s more, modern life has taken it a step further.
Many of us:
- eat at a later hour
- look at lit screens constantly
- are busy ‘doing’ from morning to night
- head to bed at a late hour
Add to that high stress or chronic low-grade stress and it creates a perfect storm for sleep disruption.
With this in mind, is it surprising that weight gain can be due to physiological reasons such as sleeplessness rather than overeating? As a result, the extra kilo’s won’t easily budge until the root cause is taken care of.
A Word About Melatonin, Tryptophan & Magnesium & Sleep
As has been noted, melatonin is a hormone our body produces when night falls and it’s crucial for sleep. Therefore, it may be helpful to know research suggests dietary factors can make a difference to our melatonin production. Indeed, eating a diet high in foods rich in melatonin and/or the amino acid tryptophan which synthesises melatonin can be helpful.
Tryptophan produces vitamin B3 (niacin) and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes called ‘the feel-good’ chemical as it’s believed to be an important sleep and mood regulator.
And another sleep enhancer is the mineral magnesium which is present in many foods. It’s important to realise that there are a variety of forms available. However, magnesium acetyltaurate, magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are considered to be the most well absorbed by the human body.
6 Sleep Steps For More Energy & Less Weight Gain
- Be consistent with the times you get up in the morning and when you turn the lights out. Try and get in sync with your circadian rhythm as this is your natural sleep-wake cycle.
- Exercise early. In terms of sleep, the earlier in the day you exercise the better. Moreover, active movement revs your metabolism, body temperature and stimulates cortisol so it’s a great all-over tonic. And Yoga Nidra or gentle stretching would be ideal before bed as this study shows.
- Get out of your head and calm your racing mind by learning to meditate. University of Southern California research found improvements in sleep quality in people who meditated.
- Increase daytime bright light particularly in winter months and decrease nighttime blue light. Interesting studies showed that exposure to blue-enriched white light during the day improved positive mood, evening fatigue, concentration and daytime sleepiness. At night, turn off the screens on your devices as early as possible because the blue light they emit isn’t sleep or health-friendly.
- Eat melatonin/tryptophan/magnesium-rich foods. There are examples below as well as an extended list here.
High Melatonin Foods
- Goji Berries
High Magnesium Foods
- Dark Chocolate
- Fatty fish
- Leafy greens
- Legumes – edamame, beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas
- Seeds – flax, pumpkin, chia
- Wholegrains – oats, buckwheat, quinoa, barley
High Tryptophan Foods
- Edamame beans
- Soy – tofu, soy milk, soy sauce
Indeed, we have a bonus for you! Click here to download our FREE Sleep Hygiene Guide.
And if you have any questions don’t hesitate to email us here, and if you feel this would help someone you love please share it with them (you can do that below).
Main Photo by Gabby K from Pexels