There’s a good chance if you are over forty and finding yourself staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m., or just waking up far too early every morning, you feel like you’re going crazy. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to work an eight hour day feeling so groggy and tired. If you could just get some decent sleep all would be right in your world. It’s also possible that you’ve tried everything from Gravol to alcohol to over-the-counter sleep aids just to get you over the hump. Unfortunately these things don’t solve your problem and usually leave you feeling shaky or grumpy for most of the day. If this is happening it’s almost certain your hormones have gone wacky.
I feel your pain. A few years ago I left my corporate job because I had stopped sleeping altogether. I honestly thought I would never sleep again. A Naturopath told me it was likely I was adrenally fatigued and very low in progesterone. At that point I hadn’t yet studied hormones and I certainly didn’t know my adrenal glands could be fatigued. For a lot of women chronic insomnia is one of the most debilitating symptoms of perimenopause. After two years of holistic medicine, stress management, and lots of research, I decided to leave my corporate job entirely and dedicate my life to healing and helping women like me do the same.
There is nothing worse than lying awake while your hormones are having a good old time dancing in the moonlight. Lack of sleep makes you crabby, irritable, and may even make you cry. And if that isn’t bad enough long-term insomnia can lead to belly fat, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression, and impaired immune function.
Why do so many women suffer from insomnia in perimenopause?
The most common hormone imbalance in perimenopause is low progesterone. During perimenopause the cessation of ovulation leads to dramatic drops in progesterone. Symptoms of low progesterone may include:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Foggy brain
- Clotty periods
- Irregular periods
- Breast tenderness (especially during the last 10 days of your cycle)
When low progesterone is your problem, you may not be able to fall asleep and stay asleep, often waking at 1 or 2 a.m. If you suspect your progesterone is low you should discuss your symptoms with your health care provider. Hormones are tricky and oftentimes symptoms are the same for two entirely different problems. Blood tests and more accurate saliva tests can confirm low progesterone. Your health care provider may recommend the herb Chasteberry, also known as Vitex. Chasteberry can help balance estrogen and progesterone. Alternatively, your medical provider may recommend a progesterone prescription. Oral progesterone capsules are most effective for insomnia although progesterone cream can be helpful as well. Synthetic Progestin found in birth control pills is not progesterone.
In addition to an imbalance of sex hormones during perimenopause many women suffer from high levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, which contributes significantly to chronic insomnia. The following video explains the relationship between nutrition, Cortisol and sleep. Find out what you can do to begin the healing process.
If you suspect that hormones are the cause of your insomnia please get them tested. Finding out the root cause of insomnia can give you relief. As far as nutrition goes I recommend the following:
- DITCH THE CAFFEINE:
I hear the pain of withdrawal now. Caffeine can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it hard for your adrenal glands to recover. If you must drink coffee or a caffeinated beverage take only a limited amount in the morning and none after noon.
- AVOID SUGAR AND SWEETENERS:
This includes high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Avoid sugary foods, cereals, candy, and sweets. Be aware that sugar is an additive in many breads, condiments, and dressings. Avoid as much extra sugar as possible. Occasionally adding Stevia or Xylitol can help as an alternative.
- REFRAIN FROM PROCESSED AND MICROWAVED FOODS:
Most microwaveable foods have preservatives and fillers that are hard to digest and wear out your body’s energy and digestion cycle. Buy the foods on the outer walls of the grocery store and prepare your own meals whenever possible.
- STAY AWAY FROM HYDROGENATED OILS:
Vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, and corn oil are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Use good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, or organic grass-fed butter.
- ADD PROTEIN AND HEALTHY FAT TO YOUR CARBS:
Add protein to slow down your carbohydrates. Protein reduces the blood sugar spike thereby avoiding the insulin spike which causes an unnecessary release of cortisol.
By making these nutritional changes and choices you will help your body fall asleep and stay asleep when you want it to. Sweet dreams!
Kelly Greer BASc RD is a hormone focused dietitian who helps women struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can feel more confident and in control of their bodies. Kelly’s clients would tell you that she helped them transform their bodies and minds into their former fantastic selves with a little more swagger and zest for life.
If you would like to find out how to work with Kelly click here:
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