Are menopausal women more vulnerable to stress and anxiety?
Arguably, menopausal women can be a bit more vulnerable to stress and a lot of this is to do with your hormones.
As you enter menopause, your levels of oestrogen, a female sex hormone and mood-enhancer, will gradually start to drop, which not only affects how your body regulates cortisol, a stress hormone, but it can also make you more prone to stress, low mood, mood swings and impatience.
All of these hormonal fluctuations can also affect your relationships with those around you – your loved ones might find it difficult to understand your sudden mood swings, not to mention at this time of life, ‘empty nest syndrome’ can sometimes be in full swing.
How does stress affect your sleep?
Stress, believe it or not, does serve a purpose – it helps to prepare your body for a flight or fight situation when your survival could be on the line.
When you experience stress, your body will release hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, heightening your response time and redirecting vital nutrients to your muscles and joints, heart and lungs, prepping you for either a fight or a flight. Your heart rate will be elevated and your digestive system will slow down so you’ll either experience a sudden bought of diarrhoea or constipation.
However, the problem is that your body has no sense of moderation – it cannot distinguish between you facing down a grizzly bear and you worrying about your deadline at work. If you’re lying in bed, your mind buzzing, the same aforementioned fight or flight reaction will take place and this rush of inflammatory stress hormones can inhibit your production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Experiencing stress on a regular basis can also have a larger impact on your physical and mental health, stimulating symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, forgetfulness and yes, hot flushes. Not to mention, if your cortisol levels are erratic through the day, it can exhaust your adrenal glands, which in turn will cause further hormonal imbalances that may disrupt your sleep cycle.
If you’re menopausal, though, experiencing stress can bring with it a whole plethora of new problems. Remember, your hormones are fluctuating which can already place added pressure on your nervous system, making it more sensitive to emotional problems. A stress reaction, as I’ve discussed, can elevate your heart rate and trigger a hot flush – not what you need when you’re trying to sleep at night!
Can sleep deprivation cause stress?
If you’re awake all night, tossing in bed, trying to cope with an unpleasant episode of night sweats then your quality of sleep will ultimately be affected, which will inevitably make you more vulnerable to stress and other symptoms such as memory lapses and difficulty concentrating.
This is because your body relies on certain sleep phases to secrete hormones, consolidate memories and conduct vital repair work. If you’re body isn’t getting time to carry out these essential functions, then you’re going to feel the repercussions – your muscles and joints will be more prone to aches and pains since sleep deprivation can increase your sensitivity to pain, your immune function will be lowered and you’re going to struggle to focus, with even simple tasks suddenly seeming overwhelming.
Sleep deprivation can also stimulate another unwanted symptom – food cravings! If you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t be producing enough leptin, an appetite suppressor. This means you’ll be more inclined to binge on sugary foods which will disturb your blood sugar levels, further interrupting your sleep and upsetting your digestive system, making you even more prone to hot sweats!
Is sleep good for stress?
Can getting enough sleep help to lower your stress levels? This is a complicated question and it depends on the origin of your stress. If sleep problems are causing you to experience increased levels of anxiety, then yes, a good night’s sleep should help to reduce this problem, giving your body and mind the time it needs to rest and recuperate.
But what if stress is causing your sleep problems? What if you’re lying awake at night worrying about bills or family members?
Well, getting a good night’s sleep can still help for the same reasons I’ve already mentioned – it can help your mind to recover and recuperate. It can ensure that you wake up feeling more able to cope with your problems as well as capable of making the important decisions and judgement calls that you might need to.
Sleep is also really important for your mood, one study identified sleep as one of the most important contributors to better living, beating out financial security and other factors.
This is possibly because your quality of sleep has such a big impact on your behaviour, social interactions and work performance. All of which these can affect your quality of life, with social interactions being very important for maintaining a healthy mood and positive outlook.
Getting enough rest also gives us more get up and go, encouraging you to make the most out of opportunities rather than languishing at home feeling tired and lethargic!
6 great tips to help you overcome stress
So how can you overcome stress and prevent it from ruining your sleep patterns? There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the impact that stress has on your way of life and quality of sleep, but you may need to be prepared to make a few changes to your usual routine.
1 – Confront the source of your stress
This is often the most difficult step because many of us don’t like confrontation and want to avoid potentially tense situations. However, procrastination is definitely not the answer so if there is something you can do about feeling stressed or anxious, try to find the courage to do it, whether it means speaking someone you love about how you’re being treated or taking a hard look at your financial situation.
In the end, you will feel better for taking control of the situation and it may help your long-term quality of living. Whatever the case, at least you can go to bed without worrying about what ‘might’ happen and instead focus your attention on what you want to happen.
2 – Talk to someone
A problem shared is a problem halved, so, if you aren’t ready to confront the source of your stress just yet, the next best thing you can do is talk to someone about it, whether it’s a family member or a friend. It might not solve your problem but at least it will give you a chance to get it off your chest and who knows, perhaps whoever you speak to will be able to offer a new perspective on the issue or suggest an alternative approach.
Of course, if you’re struggling with menopausal symptoms like mood swings, irritation or resentment, this type of open communication is incredibly important. If you’ve snapped at someone or lashed out at a loved one they need to know that it isn’t you speaking, it’s just your hormones. Explaining the situation to them should help them to understand your position and it prevents you from becoming isolated from your friends and family, left alone to cope with your symptoms and your stress.
3– Make your bedroom a ‘stress-free’ environment
After a long day at work or running around after the family, the chances are you probably arrive home and peruse the social media apps on your phone, trying to catch up on anything you might have missed out on. However, tablets, smart phones and laptops all have one thing in common – all of them can slow down your production of melatonin and, depending on the type of content you’re watching, can stimulate a stress reaction.
That’s why I’d try to the resist the temptation to scan your phone when you’re struggling to sleep and instead read a book or indulge in a nice hot bath. These activities should hopefully help you to relax – I personally sometimes add a couple of drops of lavender oil to my pillow as it’s incredibly soothing and can help my mind to relax as I’m drifting off.
4 – Practice mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness is definitely gaining traction as a way of focusing your mind and reducing your stress levels, enabling many to deal with stress in a more positive manner.
It’s a very simple form of meditation that forces you to focus your full attention on your breath, allowing you to observe your own thoughts and become more aware about your body’s needs. If stress is behind your hot flushes, this type of meditation can be useful for regulating your circulation and slowing down stress hormones like adrenalin.
Studies have even found that practicing mindfulness can lower cortisol levels in the blood – one study looked at the effects of mindfulness on the cortisol levels of medical students and found that it reduced their cortisol levels, indicating its usefulness when it comes to decreasing stress and anxiety!1
Mindfulness is easy to practice and doesn’t have to be time consuming. The Headspace app is specifically aimed for beginners and offers 10 minute meditation exercises for free as well as a personalised progress page!
5 – Tackle those sweats
Hot flushes and night sweats are two of the most common menopause symptoms, usually caused when fluctuating levels of oestrogen interfere with a gland in your brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamaus, amongst other things, is responsible for regulating your temperature but, when your oestrogen levels start to fall, it can become a bit confused and stimulate a hot flush, flushing your skin with blood so you sweat.
Aside from abiding by some of the tips I’ve already mentioned, it’s extremely important you keep yourself hydrated as dehydration is a huge issue when it comes to hot flushes and night sweats – avoid caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee and focus on plenty of good old H20.
Once you’ve got your fluid intake under control, you might want to consider a natural herbal remedy, like A.Vogel's handy Menopause Support Tablets. Prepared using soy isoflavones, magnesium and hibiscus, this special formulation gently helps to balance your oestrogen levels, reducing symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and fatigue. This, in combination with Menoforce Sage, should help to ease your hot sweats, enabling you to get a good night’s sleep!
6 – Get outdoors
Getting outdoors is very important when it comes to regulating your circadian rhythm and improving your sleep patterns. Turns out the great outdoors can also help to boost your mood and allow you to synthesise more vitamin D, an essential nutrient for your immune system that’s also thought to play a role in preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Exercising outdoors is also associated with a variety of health benefits too, including boosting your mood and regulating your sleep patterns, spending time surrounded by nature is thought to lower your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, making you more relaxed and at peace.
We have put together this bundle just for you to use whenever you find yourself troubled by menopausal symptoms such as night sweats. Including a selection of soothing herbal remedies and natural supplements, all care has been taken to ensure you drift into a deep, restful sleep.