Can't Catch Your ZZZZ's?
Ah sleep, the most coveted part of my day. But what if you just can't get to sleep or stay asleep? For many menopausal women, this starts to become a central problem in their life, mostly related to hormonal fluctuations. As estrogen and progesterone decline, our sleep cycles become disturbed, which can then snowball into reduced brain power, anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue, and weakened immunity.
We can improve sleep by first changing some of our habits. Try to go to bed and wake at the same time every day. The body wants to be on a predictable rhythm.
If you are finding it hard to unwind and get to sleep try:
- Minimizing screen exposure several hours before bed, or wear blue light glasses. Blue light impairs the body’s ability to make melatonin, making it hard for you to fall asleep.
- Be sure your bedroom is very dark and cold.
- Take a hot bath with plain Epsom salt before bed to raise your body temperature and encourage relaxation.
- Drink chamomile or Sleepy Time tea as a wind down ritual.
- Put lavender oil on your feet and temples, and breathe it in deeply for 3-5 minutes. It’s important to use pure oils such as Doterra or Young Living – off brands will be synthetic fragrances which are harmful and non-therapeutic.
If you are having trouble staying asleep, noting what time you typically wake can be insightful. For those waking between 1 and 3 am, it’s usually liver or blood sugar related. This means your liver is having a hard time detoxing, or your blood sugar has dropped enough making your body secrete a surge of adrenaline and it wakes you up. These could indicate the need for a liver detox or blood sugar support. Try eating a tiny bite of protein at bed time to see if this corrects it. Alcohol is also a big culprit for night time waking and causes both the liver detox and blood sugar to be impaired.
What about melatonin? Melatonin is produced by our brain to induce sleep but the brain requires darkness to make it. It is made from serotonin, and requires magnesium, B6, folate, iron, zinc, and Vitamin C in order for it to be converted into melatonin. Any deficiency will cause the body not to make it.
Melatonin can help you to fall asleep IF you are low in melatonin. What many people don’t realize is that it can have the opposite effect if your natural levels are adequate. The body only makes the equivalent to about 1.5 grams naturally. Many people believe that the more you take the better and this is not the case. If you do try melatonin, do so in a dose of 1-3 grams only and see how it works. My favorite sleep aid product is Sleep Factors by NutraBiogenesis. It contains a low dose of melatonin, but also lots of vitamins precursors and herbs to help you relax and prepare the body for sleep.
If melatonin has the opposite effect of keeping you awake, then it’s likely low melatonin is not the case. Taking 400 mg of magnesium glycinate at night can help relax and allow you to make melatonin naturally. Getting your hormones in balance is also key. Many women find that once they naturally support their hormones with maca or phytoestrogens, sleep improves. Supplemental progesterone can also me very helpful to many women if taken at night right before bed.
If you are still having sleep troubles, digging deeper through functional testing is a great start. The DUTCH hormone test allows you to see your sex hormone levels, as well as your state of melatonin production, and cortisol (stress). Micronutrient testing can show you exactly what nutrients you are deficient in at the cellular level. And lastly, blood testing for insulin and blood sugar markers is important to knowing if that's part of the puzzle. Knowing your body's biochemistry allows you to tailor your diet and supplement program to exactly what you need to bring balance back to the body.