Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for us all, and is every bit as important as a healthy diet and exercise regime, if not more so. Sleeping between seven and nine hours (how much you need depends on you) per night is crucial to help our bodies to function properly.
“When we struggle to get good quality sleep, it can affect us in many ways; our mood, immune system and even hunger levels can be sent haywire after a few nights of bad sleep,” says Angelique Panagos, a nutritional therapist and hormonal health expert.
Let’s start with weight gain, which menopausal women are often prone to. “When we sleep badly, our risk of weight gain can become much worse,” warns Panagos. “Good sleepers have been shown in studies to eat fewer calories and have more motivation to exercise, while bad sleepers also have reduced levels of the hormone leptin (the hormone which tells us when we are full) and elevated levels of ghrelin, which increases our appetite,” she says. As well as this, some scientists believe that a lack of sleep can cause our blood sugars to rollercoaster.
Poor sleep is also often linked to depression and mental health issues, many of which can affect menopausal women. Problems such as a lack of concentration and focus become even harder on zero sleep, while mood swings are also another reason to prioritise sleep. “In fact, so important is sleep to a balanced, happy mind, that some studies have shown that 90 per cent of patients with depression also suffer from sleep problems,” adds Panagos.
What are common sleep problems during the menopause?
Unfortunately, menopausal ladies have it hard when it comes to sleep. There are the dreaded hot flushes, which cause many women to wake up soaked in sweat, as well as problems with insomnia. “Add to this the fact that many menopausal women suffer with anxiety and depression, and you can begin to understand why many menopausal women suffer from chronic sleep problems,” says Panagos.
Tips to improve your sleep
“Firstly, I suggest you follow my six pillars to better health and happier hormones, which I go into detail in throughout my book, The Balance Plan. These pillars include nourishing the body through healthy food choices, balancing our blood sugars, nurturing and caring for the adrenals and thyroids through meditation or deep belly breathing, cleansing the body through filtered water and leafy greens, exercising daily and ensuring you enjoy some ‘me’ time to restore - every single day!”
Panagos stresses these actions are all priorities, not luxuries, and will send your stress levels plummeting.
“I also advise my clients to switch off their phones, laptops and TVs (televisions in the bedroom are a big no-no!) a couple of hours before they go to bed, if they can, and to consider keeping a journal on a bedside table. This can help you to purge any negative thoughts or emotions before you climb into bed,” states Panagos.
It’s also a good idea to try to establish a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. “Other good tips for sleeping include spending plenty of time outdoors in the sunshine and avoiding caffeine after lunch time,” says Panagos. “Chamomile tea is a great sleep inducer if you want to sip on a hot drink in the evening.”
Angelique Panagos’ book is The Balance Plan: Six Steps to Optomise Your Hormonal Health (£13.60, amazon.co.uk). For more information on Panagos, visit: www.angeliquepanagos.com