If you have just started experiencing menopause, you’re probably finding out about all its ‘delights’. Although it can be a taboo topic, many of us have heard about symptoms like night sweats and depression–the NHS lists them among the 12 most common. In fact, new research suggests there are at least 48 symptoms to be aware of. Did you know menopause is also a sleep thief? A study of over 1000 women found that about 73% experienced fatigue at some stage of menopause.
So why does menopause make you tired? And what can you do to regain that lost energy?
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Why does menopause make you tired?
There are at least 3 different causes of menopause fatigue.
- Drop in progesterone and oestrogen—two hormones women usually produce, but produce less of during menopause. They can affect thyroid hormones that regulate cellular energy, and make you feel fatigued for no apparent reason. Progesterone also gives women some protection against sleep apnea, so it’s possible that sleep thief is adding to the fatigue.
- Hot flashes and night sweats—it’s not strange that feeling uncomfortable and overheated can wake you during the night. It also makes it harder to go to sleep at all.
- Insomnia—as if all of that isn’t enough, insomnia itself is a symptom of menopause.
What can you do about menopause fatigue?
Your GP can usually help you by giving you hormone replacement therapy to restore some balance. The NHS lists different treatments that could be used for menopause symptoms. But you might have to wait a while to see a GP. So here are some things you can try yourself in the meantime.
Yes, it’s that list. We’re not saying you have to stop doing everything that’s fun, but if you are really suffering, all menopause symptoms might be improved by cutting down on (or quitting):
- Spicy foods
But do… exercise
We know, exercise seems to be good for just about everything. It famously helps you sleep better, especially if you find the best time for you to exercise. Exercise improves your heart health, and your mental health. But you don’t have to start bench pressing or join a zumba class. Setting a realistic goal and sticking to it works wonders.
Exercise is amazing, but in the fresh air is even better. And it doesn’t have to be a marathon. Just a lunch-time walk in the fresh air could improve night-time sleep. Nature helps us destress, and the benefits don’t end at improved sleep and mental health. As an added bonus, all that lovely sunshine improves our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is always important, even more so if you are battling menopause symptoms.
Spend time with small children
It doesn’t apply to all women—does anything?—but a study done in women who experienced a surgical menopause actually had milder menopause symptoms when they cared for small children. The study wasn’t done with women experiencing natural menopause, but oxytocin could be a key player in this. When we care for and bond with a small child—under 13, according to the study—we reap the benefits of oxytocin, the famous feel-good hormone. This can also help alleviate anxiety and depression: 2 of those 48 symptoms. So finding a way to spend more time with small children, by caring for them either as a career or as a favour to friends or relatives, could help. And honestly, who doesn’t love an excuse to play all day?
So… a career change?
Although changing careers doesn’t magically improve menopause symptoms, it can be part of the solution. It doesn’t hurt to make money doing something you love. Especially if your new job ticks all the above boxes—being active outdoors with small children. Career options like becoming a nanny or childminder mean more time with small children in the fresh air. That’s more oxytocin from cuddles, more exercise, more vitamin D from sunshine to help muscle and bone, and just overall benefits to health and sleep. Choosing a menopause-friendly employer, or working for yourself and taking control, are really important. But wherever and however you work, make sure you get the support you deserve.
You are not alone
Whether you are getting it from friends, relatives, or medical professionals, don’t be afraid to ask for support. Don’t be afraid to let people know you are dealing with something really tough. It’s 2022, and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about something that happens to all women on earth anymore. Shout about it from the rooftops, normalise it, and feel the love from other women experiencing menopause and fatigue. Because one thing is for certain—you are not alone.
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