You don’t appreciate it until it is gone’

This is so true when it comes to sleep. Do you remember a time when you fell asleep easily and woke up refreshed, energetic and ready for the day. Then suddenly in your 40’s or 50’s, you begin to experience sleep issues:

Difficulty falling asleep

Sharp awakenings at 3am

Lengthy periods of being awake

most commonly reported sleep issues by clients


Fat is an insulator, keeping our body warm and cushioning us. During the menopause, visceral fat may increase the internal body temperature, exacerbating night sweats and hot flushes. I work with women helping them to lose weight and to reduce endocrine disruptors such as sugar and alcohol. I help my clients to understand the hormonal change so that they can make informed decisions on their diet and lifestyle. I had to do it for myself and it really helps me to practice.

Overweight & Tired

If your sleep is consistently poor, you will eat more as you feel tired all time and are inadvertently looking for energy. Get your sleep right and you will find losing weight easier.

Joan Moloney BSc. Weight-Loss Nutritionist.
 e: m: 086 316 7041

1. Do you have difficulty falling asleep?

If your answer is yes, read through the following tips. If your answer is no, move onto the second question

1. Is the room dark enough or do you need chinks of light? Melatonin is the sleep hormone. All human systems work on a 24 rhythm, called the circadian rhythm whereby as the stress hormone Cortisol rises, the sleep hormone melatonin falls. Light is a driving factor in this rhythm. The pineal gland behind the eye is the source of the vast majority of circulating melatonin in mammals.

2. Is your temperature and the room, right for sleep? The circadian rhythm has also been shown to affect the core body temperature, as tissues and organs increase or decrease activity under the influence of this rhythm. Put the window on night lock if you are too hot. Use cotton bed sheets and pillows. Maybe you need a new more comfortable pillow. Try a hot bath (preferably with essential oils bergamot, lavender, camomile) or shower before bed. You can use an essential oil moisturiser after a shower if you don’t take baths.  Add extra blankets if you are too cold. Heavy-weight blanket coverings can help induce sleep in babies and adults.

3. Are you winding down before bedtime preparing for sleep? Eliminate your use or exposure to electronic equipment 1 hour before bed. Switch to amber/low lighting in the house before bedtime. Instil quietness in the house from a certain time. Are teenagers coming in late waking you up? Your house, your rules.

4. Smells can help to induce sleep – lavender sprays. Herbal teas with camomile, valerian and oats might help. 

5. Is your mind busy all day and are your thoughts racing, thinking ahead to all that you have to do tomorrow? Practising a relaxation technique is effective either before or in bed. A Yin yoga class is the perfect choice for your worse nights. There are APPS that play music or talk to you and create beautiful visuals and stories that lull you to sleep. The challenge is to find the right voice for you. American, English or Irish accent? My Yoga Teacher is a friend and her voice is comforting to me (YogawithSheila) Sheila Fitzgerald. 

6. Are you stimulating your adrenals and neurons before bed? Caffeine releases short-bursts of adrenaline, gearing up the nervous system. The wrong choice of movie can affect your state of relaxation before bedtime.

2. Are you waking sharply from Sleep?

Are you using stimulants before bed?

Alcohol initially winds us down but is responsible for sharp blood sugar dips at around 3am, which wake us up sharply out of sleep. Adrenaline is released and our heart rate increases, leaving us with a slightly panicky feeling that stops us dropping easily back into sleep. Alcohol also reduces our REM sleep where we process the day’s events and tasks.

Alcohol is prioritised by the liver for clearance because it is a poison and cannot be stored. During the ‘change’ a woman’s liver is busier than ever as the body is stressed with the hormonal imbalance. Some people take supplements such as dandelion, milk thistle to support the liver, and if a blood screen reveals raised ALT or GGT liver enzymes, reducing alcohol is a must or if slightly raised blood sugars emerge, a low-carb food plan is ideal.

Sugar:  A high sugar intake before bedtime (milk chocolate, sweets, jellies, bread, a pasta dinner, soda drinks, fruit drinks) also can create a blood sugar dip with the same effect. After the age of 50, our endocrine system (including blood sugar management) is not as effective. A change in our diet and lifestyle may be needed to avoid prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.  

Exercise: A walk after your last meal and 2 hours or so before bedtime improves blood sugar control and helps to empty the mind of the days thoughts and really helps sleep. If you have been sitting or tensed up all day at a desk, a walk helps to loosen up muscles. 

Thoughts: If your life is busy, a very useful technique is to jot down your tasks for the next day and empty your mind of them. By handing them over to your diary, you free yourself from them, promising yourself that you will deal with them tomorrow. Our mind and muscles are so connected that you have to tackle both to get some sleep. A busy mind, a tense body are not going to help falling asleep. 

Useful Nutrients to help you get through the Change

The ‘change’ is a stressor. The nutrients that are most used or burnt up during stressful periods are the family of B vitamins and magnesium. 

Magnesium is nature’s tranquilliser. It is involved in over 3000 reactions in the body. A hint that you may be low in Magnesium is restless legs in bed at night or muscle twitches.

Take the B vitamin complex with your breakfast as it helps to produce energy to cope with the day ahead and take magnesium before bed. B6 is particularly important for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin and onto melatonin for sleep. Your local health store will advise you on the best one to buy for absorption. 

Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant has also been shown to be helpful for sleep. On my High Fat Low Carb diet, clients are getting plenty of vitamin E from nuts, seeds, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and coconut milk. 

Structurally Vitamin C, and E are involved in helping to maintain the structure of the blood vessel walls. Vitamin C manufactures collagen and bioflavonoids from citrus fruits strengthen the tiny capillary walls. Vitamin E impregnates itself into the vessel wall, mopping up damage (antioxidant). These 3 nutrients may help to compensate for the drop in oestrogen levels which previously toned and prevented the widening of the vessel. They come from healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds therefore a healthy diet protects blood vessels.

It is always safer to take a multi-vitamin than to take individual doses as nutrients tend to work synergistically, for example sodium and potassium for heart beat/ cell gates or Vit D, Magnesium and Calcium for bones Too much of 1 can affect the absorption of the other. Therefore, buy a multi-vitamin which will have a low dose of B vits and top us the B vitamin and Magnesium, if needed.

Another safe way of getting magnesium is to put a good handful Epsom salts into a bath and bath for 20 minutes. The body absorbs what is needs. This is particularly good if you have restless legs. 

Are Night Sweats waking you up?

Hot flushes

All of the earlier recommendations help night sweats because stress and stimulants cause vasodilation making the sweats worse. Any hot drink can trigger a flush, coffee, alcohol, herbal tea and spicy food. 

I highly recommend yoga and breathing techniques so that you can control it and not rely on supplements alone.

However sometimes a supplement can really help. The supplement options for helping to reduce hot flushes are Red Clover, Phytoestrogens or Sage. Your health store can again advise you on a protocol to suit you.

Finally, there are advantages to the menopause. Freedom from periods, PMT and the mood swings from the monthly hormone changes. Get through the change safely and enjoy life.

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