Journal / Inspiration

Why are we feeling tired all the time?

16 May, 2024

Fatigue is fast becoming the most reported symptom of menopause.

16 May, 2024

In our latest analysis of the symptoms you tell us trouble you most, 79% of you report fatigue as the most persistent and difficult to manage. Additional research published by McKinsey this year tells us that the same amount (c.78%) find tiredness as the most challenging symptom to manage at work. And Oura have reported that, as we transition through menopause, we lose length of sleep time, quality of sleep, dreaming time and see an increase in difficulty getting to sleep at night compared to our younger selves.

This is a significant uptick in the 40-60% benchmark previous studies have shown.

So, what is making us so tired…and what do the experts, working with midlife women everyday, say we can do? We spoke to two of the sleep specialists, Dr Kat of DrKatSleep, and Dr Maja of The Good Sleep Clinic, who support our community, for their view. Dr Martins, our Science Lead, gave her naturopathic perspective too.


Dr Kat, could I ask you to start by explaining the role of sleep in supporting our bodies and minds? Why do we need it?

Dr Kat: Sleep is fundamental to our physical health, our mental health, and our cognitive health too. It is only when we sleep that our body and brain get the chance to restore themselves after a hard day’s work. Sleep is the temporal niche during which the body and brain can refill used up resources, repair metabolic pathways and clear itself of toxins. Why? Because there are no demands coming from the external world.

It’s also interesting to note that humans are the only animals that willingly defer sleep! And this evolutionary ability is due to the fact that we have a highly developed brain, an awareness of ourselves that allows us to plan and prioritise - and in the case of sleep, decide to push back our bedtime for something we deem to be more important. Sometimes that is helpful and, potentially, life-saving. The problem is when we use it to binge-watch Netflix! Or, to defer sleep because the dread of the next day makes us unwilling to be without distraction.

From a physiological perspective, a lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular issues. It impacts how we manage glucose and sugar and our weight. There is a growing body of research pointing to its impact on dementia risk, as well as the impact we feel, individually following a poor night’s sleep - that struggle with cognition, with thinking clearly - and, critically, of thinking creatively and innovatively too. To put it bluntly, we fall apart if we don’t sleep well.


What are the principles you recommend to women in midlife looking to achieve better sleep - and why?

Dr Kat: Good sleep in menopause requires a holistic approach. We need to look at all we do. From what we eat, to the medicines we may choose, to supplements that can support us too.


For individuals looking to redress their relationship with sleep, what recommendations do you have?

Dr Maja: It can be helpful to start with the basics, such as waking up at the same time each day, ensuring you include some exercise everyday (even a 20 minute walk), cutting out caffeine after lunch, reducing alcohol and/or moving it earlier in the evening.

If you are still struggling with sleep then you could speak to a Sleep Psychologist who can offer you Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) to help you crack any poor sleep habits you may have fallen into. But you can also use tech to access the principles too. Sleep- io and Sleep Station both get great feedback.

Dr Kat: Build in time to wind down. I have my laptop set to dim when the sun sets. I turn on side lamps across the house too. Winding down is about calming the mind but external stimulation too. Work with the root cause that may be stalling sleep. Reflect on the day you’ve had. Think about what tomorrow will bring. Journal. Explore how you feel - and process all you can before you lie down to rest.


Dr Martins, Good Food is nature’s medicine. What principles should we consider for sleep when we choose what we are putting on our plate?

Dr Martins: The nutritional foundation of a good night sleep is balanced blood sugar levels. Fluctuations and spikes in blood sugar levels trigger a series of physiological responses, including the release of the stress hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands. We know that elevated cortisol levels can interfere with the normal sleep-wake cycle, and also that menopause increases predisposition for high blood sugar.

This means prioritise:

1. Protein with every meal: Helpful for so many reasons in midlife, protein also regulates insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Foods rich in protein include lean meats, eggs, diary products, legumes, tofu, nuts, quinoa and edamame.

2. Healthy fats: healthy fats can also prevent blood sugar spikes and control hunger hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, helping to regulate appetite and contributing to a feeling of satiety.

3. Complex carbs: Foods rich in complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and legumes, may also help increase serotonin levels, promoting relaxation.
Explore foods rich in tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that contributes to the production of serotonin and melatonin. Prioritise tryptophan-containing foods in the evening, such as turkey, chicken, nuts, seeds, bananas, dairy products, oats, lentils and almond butter

4. Aim for more magnesium-rich foods: look to leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), nuts such as almonds, seeds such as pumpkin seeds, cacao and whole grains. Magnesium is known as “nature’s calming mineral” and has an important role in relaxing the nervous system and promoting sleep.

5. Explore foods rich in tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that contributes to the production of serotonin and melatonin. Prioritise tryptophan-containing foods in the evening, such as turkey, chicken, nuts, seeds, bananas, dairy products, oats, lentils and almond butter

Then, if sleep is a challenge for you, why not check out our 5 star capsule formula Mood-Food?

To find out more about our Sleep Experts, head to our consultancy page HERE.

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