When you’re lying awake in the night and the heat is building-up inside you, what do you think about?
I used to lie there and wonder why I had gone from loving my bed, to having it haunt me. I was also confused why the HRT I was on, wasn’t helping me sleep – nor were the endless magnesium supplements, menopause supplements and whatever else I was taking at the time.
But do you know what I used to worry about the most?
My increasing weight gain. The exercise wasn’t working and nor were the ‘diets of the day’. From my doctoral studies and years of lecturing, I also knew that night after night of not sleeping was the slippery slope towards worsening cardiac and metabolic health as women get older.
I was worried that I would end up like my late-mother – active and vibrant all her life, in her late 50’s and 60’s, her heart health changed and she was put on all sorts of cardiac medications – the statins for high cholesterol, the anti-hypertensives for high blood pressure. And the weight gain around her middle. I never thought to ask her if she was sleeping. After all, there was never any mention of menopause from many of her generation.
That’s why, if you are on popular diets or exhausting exercise to try to lose your menopause weight, but you aren’t sleeping, then sorry, but you aren’t fat-burning. It’s why you end up with your weight yo-yo-ing all over the place. Just as mine did too.
There is a biological reason why you’re not sleeping well – wakefulness, light sleeping and insomnia (not being able to get back to sleep) is linked to your changing reproductive hormones during menopause. But here’s the thing – lack of sleep really is a big deal for your health as you age.
Not sleeping night after night,
- increases your hot flushes,
- disrupts your blood sugar hormone called insulin
- worsens forgetfulness
- reduces muscle recovery from exercise
- keeps your body in ‘stress’ mode which increases storage of fat in the abdominal area
- changes your heart health and blood pressure.
Not sleeping is a big deal for your health as you move through menopause – especially if you are putting on weight.
Not only dies insufficient sleep make you too tired to work efficiently, to exercise, or to eat healthfully (Harvard Health Sleep Report, 2017), but menopause insomnia leads to increased inflammation building up in your cells and tissues.
This inflammation then sends us into the cascade of chronic health changes that hit us in our post-menopause years, including auto-immune health problems.
How lack of sleep leads to menopause weight gain:
The longer you lie awake night after night, the more your body-fat increases. The more your body-fat increases, the more hot flushes you have to put up with too.
I still remember when I couldn’t sleep night after night. I was up and down to the loo, making cups of tea, reading and even doing some work. I tried every strategy that I had been told about. The supplements didn’t help, nor over time, 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 sleep, which is our healing sleep, our hormones that help us to burn fat overnight (insulin and cortisol) become disrupted too. Being awake keeps these two hormones higher than they should be. When these hormones remain high, we store more fat in our fat cells.
As I tell women on my 12 week programmes, getting sleep sorted is the foundation to improved weight management and cardiac health as we age.
Why aren’t we sleeping?
Unraveling the science of not sleeping as we transition into our new hormonal environment in menopause took me hundreds of hours of study, but I was so determined to understand why I wasn’t sleeping.
Nobody told me it was all to do with the clash between my changing hormones in menopause as part of natural ageing and my diet and exercise, which was more suited to my ‘younger-self’ and not someone going through menopause.
Just as deep sleep restores your body, scientists also know that REM or dreaming sleep restores your mind, perhaps in part by helping clear out irrelevant information. A very important task for a generation of women with a lot going on in their lives still! When we get this deep, restorative sleep (between 2 and 4am), blood flow is directed less toward your brain, which cools measurably. At the beginning of this stage, your pituitary gland releases a pulse of growth hormone to stimulate tissue growth and muscle repair.
If we are lying awake between 2 and 4am, then this release of growth hormone does not reach the threshold it needs to for healing and repairing our body. This is why I hear from so many women who are avid exercisers; they don’t understand that their sore muscles and joints are due to not just low oestrogen, but also not sleeping!
We need to sleep all night again in order to reduce our joint pain as well as allow our body to recover from bouts of exercise.
Sleep is vital for activating our immune system:
Deep sleep activates our immune system. So, for those of you doing more vigorous exercise, then not sleeping may be causing your performance to drop and your muscles and joints to remain sore for longer after training. It’s the same for over-trained athletes who don’t sleep well. Their performance gradually drops off too. What happens next is a series of changes in the levels of stress hormones that cause our sleep hormone, melatonin to decline further than it has already.
Sleep is vital for regulating insulin, cortisol and melatonin levels:
The other concern is that when we aren’t sleeping well, our blood sugar hormone called insulin, remains high. So too, does our chronic stress hormone called cortisol. A high sugar diet and increased stress also messes up the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
This powerful combination of high insulin and high cortisol not only prevents your overnight fat-burning, but the presence of these hormones at higher levels competes with your sleep hormone called melatonin, which of course is already low not only due to changing levels of oestrogen in menopause, but because we are biological ageing!
The lower that melatonin is before you go to bed and the lower it stays overnight, the more awake you feel. The more awake you feel, the busier your brain and the more hot flushes you have … night after night it happens and over time your brain and your hormones are now reading this as your ‘new normal’. Every day is becomes a marathon to get through.
As many of you already know – the result is daily fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, depression, sore joints and with your insulin levels all mixed up overnight, the weight starts to increase around your belly too.
That’s why in the MyMT ‘Transform Me’ weight loss programme and the MyMT Circuit Breaker symptom-reduction programme the first module you listen to is simply called ‘Sleep All Night’. Without this precious sleep, your body doesn’t burn fat.
Not sleeping has such a negative effect on our health as we age including on our liver and gut health.
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 online 12 week programmes love their learning in the first online module they receive, which is simply called ‘SLEEP ALL NIGHT‘. 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 too.
Restore your circadian rhythm with MyMT:
One of the powerful strategies that women on my programmes discover is the importance of our Circadian Rhythms and how to adjust these to specifically match their changing hormonal levels during menopause.
The term ‘Circadian’ means “about a day” so our circadian rhythms are daily fluctuations in our biology that can become messed up as we transition through menopause.
This internal clock, which gradually becomes established during the first months of life, controls the daily ups and downs of biological patterns, including body temperature, blood pressure, and the release of hormones which control all of our body’s workings – this includes our weight management.
Circadian rhythms make people’s desire for sleep strongest between midnight and dawn, and to a lesser extent in mid-afternoon. However, our changing menopause hormones cause disruption to our normal circadian rhythms, so as we transition into or through menopause, then it’s really important to restore this biological rhythm and make adjustments to get us back sleeping all night. If we don’t, then over time our brain and body start to read this 2-3am ‘awake’ period as ‘normal’. This is why food-timing is important as well and I get all the women who join me to focus on changing the time of their evening meal to better suit their circadian rhythm which controls digestion overnight.
Certain brain structures and chemicals produce the states of sleeping and waking. Levels of melatonin begin climbing after dark and ebb after dawn. The hormone induces drowsiness, and scientists believe its daily light-sensitive cycles help keep the sleep/wake cycle on track.
As we enter our mid-life years, these levels of melatonin decline as oestrogen starts to decline. This means that our deep sleep continues to diminish. Night-time awakenings become more frequent and last longer. Waking after about three hours of sleep is particularly common and many women experience hot flushes, night sweats or want to get up and have a pee (yes, we have oestrogen receptors in our bladder as well). But the other main issue is weight gain.
Is it time to get control over your weight?
Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to gain weight, according to a review article in the journal Obesity that analyzed findings from 36 studies. The link appears to be especially strong among women during menopause. Lack of sufficient sleep tends to disrupt hormones that control hunger and appetite, and the resulting daytime fatigue often discourages you from exercising or eating healthily. How I remember those days so well!
When I began to look into our menopause symptoms as part of my women’s healthy ageing studies, I began to understand that our menopause transition is a natural transition that all women go through. But for millions of women, this stage of their lives can result in all sorts of mayhem, and it all starts with not sleeping well.
This is why I want to help you turn all of this around and it’s why, this week, I’ve put the 12 weeek online, MyMT Transform Me programme on SALE for you, up until the end of January, 2020. please use the Promo code JANUARY20 in the Buy Now button below. This gives you your savings of NZ$50, making the programme and my coaching just $87 a month for 3 months [AUS$80 and UK £40 a month for 3 months].
Over 12 weeks you discover my plans and strategies how to turn around your sleep, liver health, hot flushes, nutrition and improve your energy again. All of this is accessed in your exclusive member area on the website.
If you would like to join me on either of my 12 week online programmes then come on board when you can. If you are thinner you might like to click through on this link to the ‘Circuit-Breaker’ programme and if you are overweight, then click through to the ‘Transform Me’ programme. Both programmes are ON SALE [$87NZ a month for 3 months], which includes my private coaching as well. I would love you to discover how to sleep all night, reduce your symptoms in menopause and get back to feeling like the ‘old-you’ again.
BOTH programmes come with my BONUS MyMT™ FOOD GUIDE – packed full of the most relevant food information and recipes that I have specifically evidenced against women’s healthy ageing nutritional studies. I became so confused about nutrition, despite lecturing on nutrition at university, but then I began to understand that the information that was available at the time, was not suited to our age and stage in menopause – and no, the popular Keto or Paleo diets are not what I teach either.
I teach you how to reduce inflammation in your joints, gut and muscles by using nutrition evidenced from women’s healthy ageing studies and this includes the Mediterranean Diet, Heart Health and Longevity science as well. As soon as you join me, this fabulous Food Guide is loaded up into your exclusive member area for you.
Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD/ MyMT Creator and Lifestyle Coach/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine.
“Putting menopause into wellness, not sickness for over 2000 women around the world. Join me when you can.”
Each online programme is 12 weeks long (but you can take longer) and includes my personalised coaching as well as fabulous support in my private facebook group too. I also realise that all women are different with their needs so my individual support is critical to your success as well.
Davis, S., Castelo-Branco, C. et.al. (2012). Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric, 15: 419–429.
Harvard Health Report (2017). Improving Sleep. Harvard Health Publication
Geddes, L. (2019). Chasing the Sun: The new science of sunlight and how it shapes our bodies and minds. London: Profile Books.
Reinke H. & Asher G. (2017). Circadian clock control of liver metabolic functions. Gastroenterology, 150: 574–580.
Rizzi, M. et al. (2016). Sleep Disorders in Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Journal of Pain Relief, 5:2, 1-5
Sharma, S. & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. Int. Journal of Endocrinology, Article ID 270832, 1-12.
Woods, N. et al. (2009). Cortisol Levels during the Menopausal Transition and Early Postmenopause: Observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. Menopause, 16(4): 708–718.