Insomnia And Menopause: Why Menopausal Insomnia Can Affect Your Weight

Insomnia and menopause affect not just your energy, causing menopause fatigue, but your weight.


Did you know that getting good sleep is an important part of your strategy for beating menopausal weight gain?

Researchers have found that after a poor night's sleep, you're more likely to be extra-hungry and to crave carbohydrates and sweet, fatty foods. What's more, insomnia affects your metabolism, and if you regularly go short of sleep you'll be more likely to put on weight.

Why Is Insomnia In Menopause A Problem?

Tiredness in menopause is bad for health
ŠIstockphoto.com/Wojciech Krusinski

Your body perceives a lack of sleep as a stressor, and responds by releasing more of the hormone cortisol, which encourages your body to store excess fat around your midriff.

Lack of sleep also makes you tend to feel hungry, even if you've actually eaten enough to satisfy your appetite. If you've slept badly, don't you find yourself reaching for a doughnut or cookie to help you through the morning? That's why a pattern of insomnia during menopause can be so bad for your waistline.

Sleep loss in perimenopausal insomniahas other hormonal effects which make it harder for your body to lose fat and build muscle. It also affects your body's efficiency in burning carbohydrates, making it more likely that you'll store these as fat and raising your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can lead to serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart and circulatory problems and obesity.

Feeling tired also affects your energy levels, which means you're less likely to be active, and so you won't be burning as many calories in a day as you would if you were fully rested. All these are very important reasons to avoid insomnia in menopause, and try to get a good night's sleep, regularly.

What Causes Insomnia During Menopause?

Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common causes of broken sleep in menopause. Research done as part of the SWAN Study (Study of Women's Health Across the Nation), found that over 40% of women in the menopausal transition woke frequently during the night, and 16% had trouble falling asleep.

If you have heat disturbances during the night, talk to your doctor about what remedies you could try to reduce these menopause signs.

Even if you're not troubled with night-time overheating, don't make the mistake of thinking that you'll achieve more if you cut down on the hours you sleep. Your body needs sufficient rest to function well, so make getting a good night's sleep a priority.

Handling Insomnia And Menopause

  • First of all, seek medical help for underlying triggers which are interfering with your sleep, such as hot flushes, anxiety, depression or aches and pains. At the same time, try these simple remedies, which can help to make the difference between tossing and turning, and enjoying an unbroken night.
  • Eat healthily, and enjoy a good menopause diet. Make sure you're not hungry at bedtime, but don't have a large meal too late in the evening. A non-protein snack, like a banana, before bed can help you sleep.
  • Take a range of exercise regularly, at least 3-4 times a week. Don't exercise late in the evening though. You should have at least three hours between exercising, and going to bed.
  • Make your bedroom calming, don't watch TV in bed, and make sure your curtains or blinds keep the room good and dark.
  • Create a pre-bedtime winding-down ritual, of gradually preparing to sleep. Try to go to bed, and rise, at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Avoid coffee, tea and drinks containing caffeine, alcohol and smoking from the late afternoon on into the evening. These stimulants can seriously affect your sleep prospects.
  • Do your best not to have a daytime nap if you're suffering from insomnia in menopause.
  • Consider trying the supplement melatonin for sleep problems.
  • Work to alter your sleep pattern - to start, set your alarm for 5am, get up, keep busy all day (no naps!) and you should be tired enough to sleep at night. Gradually ease back the time you set your alarm, until you find the best times for getting up and going to bed that suit your body.
  • Dr Jane, medical advisor to Beat Menopause Weight Gain says: 'A short-term sleeping tablet can be helpful to break the pattern of insomnia. Be sensible in your use of sleeping tablets and use them only as long as you need to.' Dr Jane also suggests: 'A small tot of whisky or brandy at bedtime can have just the right amount of sedative effect to help you get off to sleep.'
  • Gone to bed and still can't sleep? Don't lie there with your brain going round and round. Get up, keep warm and do something relaxing and unstimulating until you feel sleepy, like browsing through a book or magazine. Stay off the computer though, as watching the screen tends to stimulate the brain.

Insomnia and menopause can affect your attempts to lose weight, so try these simple strategies and tackle any health issues that could be affecting your sleep. Good sleep is essential to your menopausal wellbeing.

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Can HRT help insomnia and menopause?

"Although we found some evidence that hormonal therapy could benefit these menopausal sleep related symptoms, this was not a consistent finding across all groups compared, so the role for this particular treatment needs more study."

Dr Howard Kravitz, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center and a principal investigator of the SWAN study.


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