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  • Writer's pictureHelen

How Diet can Help with Sleep in Menopause

As many as 46% of women have sleep difficulties in the years leading up to menopause. Following menopause, about half of women experience sleep disorders. This is due to the hormonal changes occurring in the body, which can lead to night sweats, irritability and anxiety.


Research has shown the potential link between the dietary habits of menopausal women and their risk of developing insomnia. This exploration into dietary patterns was conducted on over 50,000 postmenopausal women (average age 63), who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study between 1994 and 2001.


Researchers assessed their carbohydrate intake in various forms: glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL), amounts of added sugars, starch, total carbohydrates, dietary fibre, and specific carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, processed grains, whole fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. 


The findings showed that women who consumed diets higher in GI, showed an increased risk of developing insomnia. Conversely, a lower risk was observed in women who ate more whole fruits and vegetables. High-GI foods, which are rapidly digested and metabolized, causing blood sugar and insulin spikes, include processed grains (white bread, pasta, baked goods, white rice) and foods with added sugars (sugary drinks, sweets). Low-GI foods, which do not cause significant blood sugar and insulin spikes, include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.


Researchers hypothesise that high-GI foods may induce insomnia due to the rapid spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar levels. After peaking, blood sugar and insulin levels tend to plummet, potentially leading to symptoms that can disrupt sleep.


Also alcohol is one of the main repressors of vital REM sleep (dream sleep). This means you do not get the benefits of REM, such as improved memory and mood.


Nutrition tips for a good night's sleep:


  • Focus on consuming fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains (wholegrain rice, wholewheat bread etc), and lean proteins instead of processed grains and added sugars.

  • Aim to have your last large meal at least three to four hours before going to bed. 

  • If you need a snack closer to bedtime, avoid sugars and processed grains.

  • Avoid alcohol.

  • Avoid caffeine after 12pm.

  • Try eating leafy greens, nuts and seeds to ensure including magnesium in your diet which can help with muscle relaxation (epsom salts bath can help too).


References:


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