MyMT™ Blog

How lack of sleep affects your fat metabolism in menopause.

She told me she couldn’t fit her ski pants. We were chatting away over a coffee up the mountain here in beautiful Wanaka in New Zealand only last week – a friend I hadn’t seen for years since we worked at the gym together. I guessed she was in her early 50’s now and she told me that she was in a busy corporate job but during the pandemic, was still juggling work and home-schooling her kids. The school holiday break was a welcome relief to them all. When she made the comment to me about having to borrow her sister’s ski pants because hers didn’t fit her this year, I nodded knowingly. “I was the same'”I laughingly replied, remembering the embarassment and frustration of not fitting ski-pants I’d worn for years. “I’m always on a diet these days” she said, “but nothing’s working.” 

That’s when I asked her if she was sleeping. She just laughed and then went on to say she hadn’t slept well in years since her kids were born. So, I explained that all the diets in the world wouldn’t help – in menopause, if she wasn’t sleeping all night, then she wasn’t able to fat-burn overnight and her response to fat storage might be affected as well. It’s what I tell all the women on my Tansform Me weight loss programme. 

Your lack of sleep affects fat metabolism and storage in menopause. 

diagram not sleeping on menopause

Sleep and its disorders are increasingly becoming important in our sleep deprived society and scientists are learning that our sleep quantity and quality is intricately connected to various hormonal and metabolic processes in the body. Research shows that sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may have profound metabolic and cardiovascular implications and for women navigating menopause this is important to note. Lack of sleep increases our risk of heart disease as we move into post-menopause. 

As a sleep deprived society, there is evidence showing that our overnight sleep, on average is only 6 hours a night. A century ago it was 9 hours. 

“Prevalence of both diabetes and obesity has increased to acquire pandemic proportions. Though other factors such as diet and reduced physical activity have contributed to the obesity epidemic the impact of sleep dysregulation on causing metabolic derangements is being increasingly recognized. Considering only a small percentage of people can maintain a healthy weight over a long period on diet and exercise alone, the impact of sleep on weight has opened a new venue for potential intervention.” [Sharma & Kavuru, p. 2, 2010].

Why your sleep is important for restoring your metabolism overnight: 

I know that we often hear about our metabolism. Fitness programmes and dieting programmes talk about metabolism as well – but so many of them, don’t understand that our sleep has an incredible effect on metabolism too. 

Your metabolism is defined as the whole range of biochemical processes that occur within you. It constitutes the two processes of anabolism (tissue repair and restoration) and catabolism (tissue break down). In simpler terms, metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) the body burns to maintain itself. Yes, muscle matters to this, as does the food we eat, but so too does sleep. And when you are going through menopause, it’s this lack of sleep that affects our metabolic rate as well. 

When we sleep normally and deeply betweeen 2-4am, our metabolism and brain temperature are lowered. This provides your body with an opportunity to deal with any damage done during the day, e.g. from exercise or from the unhealthy foods you might eat, or other stress that your body has been under (I include emotional stress in this too).

Every day our metabolism is under stress – from the foods we eat, to the exercise we do (or don’t do) and to the foods, chemicals and pollutants we expose our body to as well. That’s why, as we age, we must focus on all the strategies to turn this around. From improving our sleep, to our liver health, the type of exercise we do and of course the nutrients we consume daily, if we are going to set ourselves up for our healthy ageing, then changing how we look after ourselves during our mid-life transition matters. 

During our menopause transition, our lowering oestrogen levels impact on our melatonin production (this is your sleep hormone) and your cortisol production (this is one of your stress hormones). That’s why, if you are in your menopause transition, it’s a ‘perfect storm’ for your changing health if you aren’t sleeping. Changing oestrogen and progesterone levels, can decrease melatonin production and increase cortisol production.

The result? – Your body doesn’t utilise fats efficiently for healing and restoring your body overnight. 

When you are awake night after night, your cortisol levels remain higher than they should. This then changes the use and uptake of glucose into your cells as well as into your brain cells. Foggy brain when you wake up anyone? 

For those of you struggling with your sleep night after night, there’s a reason you might not be able to fit your jeans or your ski-pants or your skirt or your blouse or your dress … laboratory studies have clearly shown that sleep deprivation can alter the glucose metabolism and hormones involved in regulating metabolism overnight – these hormones include your gut hormones [leptin and ghrelin] and with these hormones out of balance, then you don’t metabolise fats very well overnight. Your body ends up storing fats in fat cells instead. For menopausal women, these fat cells dominate around your diaphragm and abdomen. 

I still remember when I couldn’t sleep night after night. I was up and down like a yo-yo and it didn’t help that hubbie was lying there snoring blissfully unaware of my despair. The supplements didn’t help nor did the HRT. Although I knew that not sleeping is the slippery slope to fibromyalgia and other auto-immune diseases, the one I was most concerned about, was the weight gain. This is because when we don’t get our deep, healing sleep, our hormones that help us to burn fat overnight become disrupted too.

If you are putting on weight or you are feeling constantly cranky, irritable and exhausted, then please let me help you turn this around. Women on my 12 week programmes (there are two different ones depending if women are overweight or not), love their learning in the first online module they receive, which is simply called ‘SLEEP ALL NIGHT’. Michaela from Canada, posted this a few hours ago. 

 

For those with poor gut health, they also love discovering that our gut is also on a 24 hour night/day rhythm, so as they learn to sleep all night, their gut health starts to improve as well. [This information is also in a stand-alone module for you. Read about it HERE]. 

If this is you, then I hope you can join me. I have a short video for you below, called ‘The Science of Your Menopause Weight Gain’ to help you understand what is happening with our weight gain in menopause. Lack of sleep is just one part of the puzzle. Becoming oestrogen dominant as your hormones change is the other part, as is your changing liver and gallbladder (if you don’t have a gallbladder, then your liver health becomes even more important for your menopause weight loss). 

Whilst 2020 has certainly emerged as a year of challenges for all of us with the pandemic and I know that many of you are experiencing extraordinary changes in your life, I hope that you might be able to join me*. Whilst the Covid-19 special pricing of NZ$199 has ended now, I still want to support you, so there is still a NZ$50 SAVING on the programme pricing. This makes is NZ$249 [AUS $235 and UK£130]. Please use the promo code ATHOME20 when you select the programme that best suits you.

* [If you live in MELBOURNE, VICTORIA AUSTRALIA then please email me for a different code to get this special as you have gone back into lockdown].

Dr Wendy Sweet [PhD] MyMT Founder/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. 

References: 

Ness, K., Strayer, S., Nahmod, N. et al. (2019) Four nights of sleep restriction suppress the postprandial lipemic response and decrease satiety. Journal of Lipid Research, 2019; jlr.P094375 DOI: 10.1194/jlr.P094375

Sharma, S., & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and metabolism: an overview. International journal of endocrinology2010, 270832. https://doi.org/10.1155/2010/270832

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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