By Rachel Lankester
Why is fatigue such an issue during menopause?
Fatigue can be a major issue for women during the menopause years. There are several reasons why this may be the case. Firstly, as our hormones fluctuate, tiredness can often be a by-product.
Sleep is impacted as our hormones change; if you’ve ever been pregnant, you may remember that sleep was possibly pretty difficult then. During menopause, sleep can be disturbed by insomnia, night sweats, needing to pee more often and symptoms like restless legs, for example.
Midlife, when menopause usually happens to women, is also an incredibly busy and potentially stressful time of life. It’s a time when we may be juggling so many different things in our lives that it’s really no wonder we can become exhausted.
Years of putting ourselves last in the priority queue can finally catch up with us. Stress is a major indicator for fatigue at any time and especially during menopause.
But fatigue may also be a sign of other issues. So if lack of energy is really impacting you, be sure to get yourself checked out with a doctor.
There’s a possibility your thyroid, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep apnoea or other chronic health conditions could be the cause. If you’re having very heavy periods during menopause, you may also become anaemic so that’s another thing to consider.
Ways to manage menopause fatigue
1. Be sure to prioritise rest and recuperation. If you’re suffering from fatigue, listen to your body and make the changes you need to enable you to get back to optimal energy. Sleep is paramount.
2. Keep an eye on the quantity of caffeine you consume and when you consume it. As we go through menopause, our bodies are less able to process things like caffeine and we may find we have to cut back quite drastically and not have it later in the day. Caffeine is a big indicator for hot flashes/flushes, as well as sleeplessness, so consider cutting back.
3. Cut back on alcohol too as this can seriously disrupt sleep, especially as our estrogen levels decrease. If you are a regular drinker, give yourself several days a week without alcohol and this should have a positive impact on the quality of your sleep.
4. Work at improving your diet. A good diet will help with all menopause symptoms and maintaining consistent blood sugar levels will help to reduce stress levels in the body, thereby supporting hormonal balance.
This will help you maintain more consistent energy levels and stop fatigue. It will also help to stop any night sweats that may be disrupting your rest.
Try to cut out processed food, eat plenty of different kinds of vegetables, eat protein with every meal, add in natural phytoestrogens and eat organic as much as you can to prevent chemicals and hormones that have entered the food chain from messing with your hormones. You can find out more about a good menopause diet here.
5. If you suffer from restless legs at night try taking a magnesium supplement. It’s better taken with calcium to aid absorption.
6. Be sure to get enough exercise. If your body isn’t tired, you may struggle to sleep even if you feel mentally or emotionally exhausted. Experiment with a calming and gentle yoga or stretching routine in the hours before you go to bed to see if this helps you to sleep.
7. Eat plenty of iron rich foods or take a supplement if you think low iron may be a factor. A Lack of vitamin B12 can also contribute to fatigue.
8. Remove electronic devices from the bedroom and restrict online activity at least two hours before bedtime, so you have time to wind down and get ready for sleep. Make sure you have enough time allocated to your sleep. So if you’re having to get up early, go to bed early!
9. If you’re struggling to get to sleep, try listening to a sleep meditation on a free app like Insight Timer, but don’t get sucked into checking your phone while you’re doing that! If you’re lying awake, use the time to meditate in bed and you’ll hopefully drift off as you clear your mind – that’s a top tip from Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution.
10. Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping. This is a new one for me but a woman who’d been through surgical menopause with no HRT absolutely swears by the sleep tapping meditations on The Tapping Solution app. She doesn’t care if it’s just a placebo effect. It works and that’s all that matters – both to stay asleep and have deeper, more restorative sleep.
As with many issues associated with menopause, fatigue is your body telling you something is up. Many times we try hard to just soldier on. We’ve always managed to do certain things and live in certain ways in the past, so we refuse to accommodate our changing bodies during menopause.
I like to think of these menopause-related issues as the canary in the coal mine. If we listen and make the changes we need to, we won’t just fix the current issue, but will also set ourselves up for long-term wellness, rather than contributing to future more serious issues. That is something well worth doing.
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Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. She’s had several careers, including banking and PR, but most loves what she’s doing now – helping like-minded women in midlife and beyond feel great and live life to the fullest. She believes we just get better with age not worse. She loves yoga, running, singing, travel and most things techy.