HOW IS SLEEP AFFECTED BY MENOPAUSE?
Most women in their 40s experience symptoms of insomnia, and lack of sleep is one of the major symptoms to affect life quality. Sleep can be impacted by many things. Changes due to the body’s transition into peri menopause are usually one of the main reasons. Let’s have a look at what causes menopausal insomnia:
- hormonal changes – ovaries gradually decrease production of estrogen and progesterone (both sleep promoting hormone) and the ratio between these two hormones starts shifting. This shift is contributing to the inability to fall asleep. Estrogen contributes to higher quality sleep, with fewer awakenings throughout the night and also less time to fall asleep. Furthermore, progesterone’s role is more to regulate mood, protect against anxiety and depression. It is also responsible for promoting a sense of calm, boosting relaxation and finally facilitating a sound sleep.
- hot flashes and the accompanying night sweats – are causing a surge of adrenaline and are also awakening the brain from sleep. Unfortunately, it may take some time for the adrenaline levels to recede which impacts the ability to settle into sleep again fast.
- lifestyle changes and coincidental social issues – about 20% of women will experience many social changes from children moving out of the house, retiring, death of parents, separation, just to name a few of the issues of the midlife. These issues can also interfere with your sleep.
HEALTHY HABITS TO IMPROVE SLEEP
Since all the hormonal and social issues of the midlife may last from 3-10 years, it is of high importance to find your very individual ways to cope with menopausal insomnia and, above all, avoid sleep deprivation. Here are a few things in your sleep environment and habits you can adjust to build a tight sleep structure before you start medicating or supplementing with herbs:
- Aim for a consistent sleep schedule. Turn off lights 8 hours before the alarm is set for morning wake up. Seven. Days. A. Week. Yes, even on weekends.
- Balance blood sugar throughout the day. Eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose whole oranges instead of juice. Make sure you’re getting some protein at every meal.
- Choose healthy foods and avoid large meals, especially before bedtime. Avoid trigger foods. Spicy or acidic items may cause hot flashes.
- Get sunshine and exercise in daylight hours- they will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Avoid caffeine and sugar after 12pm.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). Dim artificial lights and nix screen time. Read a book (actual, not “e”) or take a bath with Epson Salts (magnesium sulfate).
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol interferes with normal sleep patterns and contains sugar – which stimulates.
- Dress in light weight clothes made of natural fibers like pure cotton or silk.
- Reduce stress and worry by using relaxation techniques, exercise or breathing.
- Make your room dark, quiet and keep the temperature as cool as tolerable.
Find out more about menopausal insomnia here.
HERBS FOR MENOPAUSal INSOMNIA AND HOW THEY AFFECT SLEEP – Part 2
Did you miss part 1? Read more about valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm and hops here.
KAVA KAVA (piper methysticum)
- kava or kava kava, is a shrub belonging to the pepper family, grows in the South Pacific islands and has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy.
- the part of the plant used medicinally is the root, which used to be chewed or made in to a beverage. Kava is now available in capsule, tablet, beverage, tea, and also liquid extracts
- the active substances in kava are called kavapyrones. They act very much like alcohol on the brain, making you feel relaxed and happy.
Kava has been used mainly to treat anxiety, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and sleep problems
- studies showed that kava is effective for patients suffering of anxiety-induced insomnia. It is yet unknown how kava affects sleep in patients without anxiety or stress-induced insomnia.
Recommended daily intake for kava is 70-250mg kavalactones
Interactions – this herb interacts with antiretroviral medication used to treat HIV/AIDS, barbiturates that treat anxiety as well as with all medication used in the treatment of Parkinson. Kava should not be used by patients suffering of depression or bipolar disease. WebMD
CALIFORNIA POPPY (eschscholzia californica)
- California poppy is not to be confused with opium poppy. Opium poppy is the plant used to manufacture pharmaceutical products as morphine and codeine.
- the plant is mostly known for its sedative properties, which makes it suitable as a herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia. California poppies help in relaxation, calm down rapid heart beat, and also soothes the muscles, all of which contribute to improved sleep quality.
- California poppies can be bought as powder, liquid extract, and capsules.
- there are no recommended doses for California poppy, studies show that it takes more than 1g of it in order to see results
- stems and flowers can be used to prepare a tea but it tastes rather bitter. The general recommendation for tea is not more than one cup before bedtime. If you are using tincture, take 10-20 drops before bed in a beverage of your choice (no alcohol).
- if you have problems with falling asleep AND waking up during the night, a tea made of hops, a bit of lavender and California poppy is the right mix.
Interactions – it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness when taken with sedative medication (benzodiazepines like clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam) or with CNS depressants (phenobarbital). WebMD
- nutmeg is an Indian spice used in many Indian dishes.
- the spice has many medical properties, it helps lower blood pressure, has sedating properties, and helps increasing the duration of sleep.
- a natural compound called trimyristin is responsible for the sleep inducing qualities of nutmeg.
- nutmeg is best used in capsule form as ground nutmeg loses its medicinal properties after two weeks.
- best use of nutmeg for sleep is to take one capsule/ 1 g at around 6pm as it takes approximately 4 hours to show effect and one week until you get full benefits of it.
- you can try adding a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (1g/a quarter teaspoon) to a cup of warm milk before bedtime or simply add it to any dish at dinner.
Interactions – it is recommended to talk to your health care provider if you are taking medications that are changed and broken by the liver. Nutmeg reduces the effectiveness of phenobarbital. WebMD
- CBD is a chemical compound extracted from the cannabis plant and it has a number of uses, as a sleep aid, a pain and nausea reducer, to relieve anxiety and other mood problems.
- unlike many people think, CBD has no “high” associated to it as it does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that delivers the high that occurs when ingesting marijuana
- CBD can be extracted from the cannabis plant or can also be produced synthetically
- our bodies actually produce their own cannabinoids, as part of what is known as the endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in regulating many processes, including mood, pain, sleep and cognitive functions.
- CBD has the ability to reduce anxiety which helps in reducing sleep difficulties and improving sleep quality. According to research, besides all that, CBD may increase overall sleep amount, and improve insomnia.
- CBD dosing – a range of doses from 10mg to 600mg and higher amounts has been studied in researches for sleep, anxiety, depression, and stress.
Interactions – avoid using CBD with sedative medications, medications that are altered and broken down by the liver. CBD can cause sleepiness and drowsiness when taken in combination with other herbs or supplements that promote sleep (California poppy, hops, kava, L-tryptophan, melatonin, 5HTP, St,John’s Wort, valerian)
How about you? Which natural sleep remedies helped you sleep better at night?
LAURA PEISCHL, BA, INHC
Laura is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Menopause Health Specialist, and Certified Hormone Health practitioner. She is the founder and owner of Feel Good Menopause.