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The connection between menopause, sleep and chronobiology

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

One of the most commonly reported symptoms of menopause is sleep disturbances. Women going through menopause may experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested. These sleep disturbances are thought to be related to changes in the body's circadian rhythm, which is the internal "biological clock" that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

Research has shown that menopause is associated with changes in circadian rhythm that can disrupt sleep. For example, studies have found that women going through menopause have a delayed timing of the body's internal clock, which can result in a later bedtime and a later waking time. In addition, menopause is associated with a decrease in the production of the hormone melatonin, which is important for regulating sleep.

One gene that has been implicated in menopause and sleep is the CLOCK gene, which codes for a protein that is involved in regulating the body's circadian rhythm. Studies have found that certain polymorphisms in the CLOCK gene may be associated with changes in the timing of the body's internal clock, which can lead to sleep disturbances during menopause [1].

The Estrogen receptor alpha (ESR1) gene codes for a protein that plays a key role in the body's response to estrogen. ESR1 gene polymorphisms have been studied in relation to menopause, insomnia and cognition (memory and attention). Research has shown that certain polymorphisms in the ESR1 gene increase susceptibility to memory and attention disorders from menopause associated insomnia [2].

Other factors that can contribute to sleep disturbances during menopause include hot flashes and night sweats, which can disrupt sleep by causing awakenings throughout the night. Anxiety and depression, which are common during menopause, can also contribute to sleep problems.

Nutrition factors that can help include a balanced, Mediterranean style diet with a strong emphasis on whole plant foods. Supplements that can help include magnesium and adaptogenic herbs like ashwaghanda and rhodiola to support the stress response. Chamomile tea is a natural sedative and includes antioxidants the protect the body against free radical damage. It contains a flavonoid called apigenin which has a mild sedative affect. Lavender essential oil can be applied topically or diffused at bedtime to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. It contains sedating compounds, such as linalool and linalyl acetate that reduce the activity of the nervous system. Awareness of when caffeine and alcohol intake is excessive is important as they are both nervous system stimulants.

The body is more vulnerable to lifestyle disruptions during the menopause transition. Lifestyle habits, such as consistent exercise, meditation and/or other stress reduction techniques and a consistent sleep routine with minimal disruptions before bedtime; as well as, minimizing digital device usage 2 hours before bedtime help to normalize sleep. Becoming aware of your sleep type, such as early or late to bed, early or late to wake-up and slow in going to sleep or having a hard type staying asleep, can help you to manage your sleep consistently. Want to know more about how nutrition affects you wellbeing through your pre to post-menopausal journey ? Visit www.phenomxhealth. Download your PhenomX Health app here and register for VIP membership here to monitor your sleep patterns and discover the best solutions for you !

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