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Better Sleep in Menopause

Dear Denise,

I haven’t slept in 3 nights and before that I could get to sleep but was awake by 3 am.  I know there’s changes in menopause but I’m going crazy without sleep.

-Sleepless in Syracuse


Dear Sleepless,

This is horrible!  I am so sorry this is happening to you.  It’s bad enough to have interrupted sleep but no sleep is downright dangerous!

Short term no sleep causes brain fog, trouble staying alert or paying attention and increases cravings (yikes, like meno belly needs any help!?)

Long term sleeplessness can lead to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes–DEATH!

You are definitely right about sleeplessness being a symptom of menopause.  It all comes back to stress and cortisol.  And the fact that as we get older cortisol continues to build up in our systems unless we actively avoid our stressors and even work to reduce cortisol.  Also, when we have crazy sleep, and our energy is all over the place like being tired all day, falling asleep easily but awake at 3am…cortisol is disrupted.  When working properly our cortisol is higher in the morning to help us wake up and then gradually falls all day so we can get to and stay asleep.

Let’s start with things to check off the list as “easy” fixes toward getting you to sleeping like a baby.

  1.  Caffeine.  I personally can’t have any after noon but I have also found that more than 1 cup of coffee daily really affects my sleep (we’re talking teas, sodas, energy drinks and even dark chocolate).
  2. Timing of exercise.  While some people swear it helps the sleep, if you exercise within a couple hours of bedtime you’re likely to lay there awake having raised your cortisol.
  3. Spices and nightshades are just a couple foods that can cause heartburn, that will keep you awake.
  4.  Too few calories, especially starches in your last meal of the day, may cause sugar crashes in the night that wake you up (at 3 am!)
  5. Too many calories before bed also causes digestive issues in combination with the sugar spikes and crashes.
  6. Screen time right up to bedtime has been proven to mess with your melatonin (the get to sleep hormone).
  7. Wine and alcohol.  While many people swear it helps them get to sleep, the insulin reactions are responsible for the restless sleep, surface sleep and waking up.

So Sleepless, once you’ve made sure you’re not creating the problem let’s get to some great sleep ideas.

  • Sleep hygiene, think not too hot, not too cold.  Room Temperatures really affect how well you sleep.  Play with it, adjust just 1 degree at a time and see where you sleep best (usually around 68)


  • Lights, years ago I read a book by TS Wiley talking about a pen light behind the knee significantly disrupting sleep hormones.  She recommended walking through your home after dark and noticing all the light sources; your digital alarm clocks, charging stations, smoke detectors, outside street lights…   Now my alarm clock is covered, charging station unplugged when not in use and room darkening curtains hung.


  • Phones, not in the bedroom.  From the EMFrequencies to the screen light to social media…get an old fashioned alarm clock and leave the phone far, far away!


  • All Screens, even the tv.  The bluelight is messing with our heads and hormones while social media is playing with our dopamine hits…read a paper book!


  • Starch.  In order to get our best sleep we do need a few bites with our last meal of the day to help us stay asleep, the key is not too much, think 5-15 bites (play with it but find your perfect amount)


  • Alcohol and Wine.  Only you can decide what’s right, but does it REALLY help your sleep?  Maybe it gets you to sleep but is it the culprit to waking up in the middle of the night with wild insulin swings?


  • Movement.  Get your 10,000 steps, do the laundry, just walk a little more each day.


  • Lift heavy things.  After particularly heavy workouts, you know, those testosterone builders, your body needs to recover and will push you into some deep sleep!


  • Bed time routine, get one.  Just like kids need a routine, so do adults.  A routine signals the mind and body there’s a change coming, time to switch gears, amp up the meltonin and prepare for nightly rejuvenation.  Does this mean a good (paper) book, meditation or a bath?  Whatever it is , do it consistently and as close to the same time as possible…even on your weekends!


  • Journal, get the worries out of your head so your brain can work on other things.


  • Gratitude.  A little goes a long way.  Take time to write down the good stuff.


  • Meditate, yeah, breathe, chant, whatever…clear your head.

Sweet Dreams, Sleep well



Next time…Get plenty of sleep but still exhausted?  (hint…protein)