The importance of sleep and good grub
We know that a common symptom of the menopause is reduced sleep quality and quantity. Both can cause havoc when it comes to your food choices. Do you really crave a chicken and quinoa salad the day after a sleepless night? Nope. That packet of chocolate Hobnobs keeps calling out your name.
Our resident nutritionist, Sophia Harris, dives into the importance of sleep and a healthy diet for menopausal women.
The positive news is weight gain is not a direct menopause symptom
Lots of women struggle to manage their weight when they start going through the menopause, but, let’s bust the myth - this isn’t a direct menopause symptom.
Our metabolism doesn't start to slow down until we’re 60, so the good news is, you are in control of maintaining a healthy weight. What maybe causing weight gain is likely a change in behaviour because of other menopause symptoms - poor sleep being the most common.
It may seem obvious, but weight gain only occurs in women when you eat more food than you need. Yes, it can be harder to control because of other symptoms niggling away, but the pounds don’t pile on just because of the menopause.
Poor sleep = hitting the hunger hormones where it hurts
When we sleep poorly we wake up feeling drained and exhausted. Sleep is where our body repairs and recovers, and proper sleep quality is important to wake up feeling refreshed. Ideally we want between 7-9 hours sleep to get enough, but everyone’s needs vary.
If you feel you are sleeping enough, but still wake up drained and tired, it’s an issue that needs tackling and something you need to get to the bottom of.
When I start working with clients, many tell me ‘I can survive on 4 hours sleep’, but life is for living, for thriving - we want you feeling refreshed, energised and incredible. F**k just scraping by and surviving.
The day after you’ve slept poorly (yet again) your hunger hormones are all over the place. You have a hormone called grehlin which is the hunger hormone that signals to your brain that you are hungry.
Grehlin will be super-high after a bad night's sleep, because your body is trying to recoup that energy from elsewhere. Clever really!
High grehlin levels will also push you towards high calorie, high sugar, processed foods. So you can pack plenty of calories in, to make up for the energy you are missing. Again, very clever as a survival technique, right?
The issue with higher calorie, processed foods is that you spike blood sugars, which then come crashing down, leading you to reach for more sugar to get that rush again. Not that there's anything wrong with sugar within a balanced diet, but understanding why these things happen is super important. And hopefully this might get you thinking differently about diving into that packet of tempting Hobnobs!
You also have another main hunger hormone called leptin, which is responsible for feeling satisfied after a meal. When you’ve had a rubbish night's sleep, leptin is reduced, meaning a meal that would usually leave you satisfied, won’t touch the sides.
Let’s face it, when you’ve barely slept, you have reduced cognitive function and often can’t be bothered with the faff of cooking a ‘proper’ meal. So, it’s easy to see how trying to eat healthily after sleeping badly can be difficult.
What can we do to improve our sleep quality?
Life gets busy, things get in the way, and the first thing to go is our sleep. But it’s really important, during menopause especially, that we protect our sleep as much as possible. Remind yourself of some healthy habits:
- Start winding down early and get that brain of yours to start switching off. No phones or tech, and try setting an alarm to remind you it’s bedtime. You set an alarm to wake-up, so why not to wind-down?
- Try to stick to a bedtime routine - a set bedtime, journaling or meditation, are just some tactics to get you in a good place to catch those Zs
- Treat your bedroom as your sanctuary - not your home office and not a TV room. You want your bedroom to be your place of rest - for it to feel comfortable in temperature, ambiance and a welcoming bed that shouts at you ‘come on in’!
For more guidance on sleep, head over to my Sleep Guide. Start to implement a couple of the points in this, then slowly work your way through them.
It will have a huge, positive impact on your sleep quality, how long you stay asleep for, and your overall health. Which will help you to leave the lid on those biccies and maintain a balanced diet.
Suffering from poor sleep?
If you’re suffering from poor sleep and you’d like to talk to one of our specialist pharmacists about your symptoms, book your video consultation. We’ll assess you against all 48 symptoms of the menopause and recommend a tailored treatment plan.