All About Menopause, Sleep and Insomnia

Let’s explore the basics of menopause health, nutrition, and expert tips, creating a supportive path for your well-being.

Menopause can throw your sleep off balance. The hormonal changes might be making your nights restless. Ever wondered how what you eat influences your sleep during this time? We’re here to explore the connection between menopause, sleep, and nutrition. Join us as our team of dietitians simplify how your diet affects your sleep. Let’s find practical ways to tackle menopause-related insomnia together, making your nights a bit more restful.


How Can Menopause Affect Sleep?

The years of the menopausal transition can often be a time of increased demands and challenges in a woman’s life. Combined together caring for an elderly relative alongside balancing the demands of shaping children into young adults and juggling work commitments, it may be no surprise that you might find yourself having difficulty switching off and drifting asleep at night. Menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes, intermittent night sweats and changes in mood, can all contribute to poor sleep. 


Sleep Hygiene During Menopause 

While having a clean room and fresh linen bedsheets may help you fall asleep, this is not what we mean when we talk about sleep hygiene! Sleep hygiene encompasses the routines and behaviours you partake in, which can help you drift away with ease. You may have been told to ‘count sheep’ to help ease a racing mind as a child. Will there may be some science behind this madness. 

Developing a bedtime routine has been shown to help catch those zzz’s. Whether it be getting stuck into a binge-worthy novel, listening to soothing music or taking a relaxing soak in the bath – try to find an evening activity away from the screen which you can build a part of your evening routine to switch off comes highly recommended. 


 Nutrition Tips for Menopause Insomnia 

  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime – this can keep you awake as your body is ticking away, digesting all of those nutrients you have consumed. 
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day – generally, we say to avoid sources of caffeine such as coffee and tea after lunchtime for the best night’s sleep. Caffeine takes about 6 hours to be broken down in the body, meaning that your ‘pick me up’ cup of coffee in the afternoon could contribute to your not sleeping well that night and feed into the vicious cycle of craving that extra cup of liquid gold! 
  • Is reflux or heartburn causing issues? Try elevating your body to a 45-degree angle in bed by propping your head up with an additional pillow. 
  • Wearing loose comfortable clothing can also help to ease a bloated tummy. 


How Sleep Affects Nutrition 

It is important to note that the relationship between nutrition and sleep is bidirectional and must be considered in a type of two-way interaction. 

  • The impact of sleep (duration and timing) on diet 
  • The impact of diet (quality and nutrients) on sleep 

Studies have shown that sleep restriction negatively affects hunger and appetite levels, which has been linked with excess weight gain (1). This affects appetite hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin, which are well known for coordinating hunger levels. You should know that leptin promotes satiety or the feeling of fullness after eating foods, whilst ghrelin stimulates appetite and the desire to eat. 

Most people have heard of the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night phenomenon for optimal health. Well, there is science to back up this old wise tail. Have you ever had a bad night’s sleep and treated yourself with food the following day? Sleep deprivation results in compromised activity of the appetite-controlling regions of the brain. This results in an inhibitory control of food intake and an increased preference for high-calorie foods. 

This may easily lead to overconsumption of energy, resulting in excess weight gain and obesity over time. There have also been studies to show that when individuals are sleep-deprived, they are more willing to spend more money on food. Can you relate? This food-reward mechanism, coupled with an increased preference for high-energy foods, may lead you towards convenience food shops and foods that are ‘unhealthy’ and classified as top-shelf foods on the food pyramid. 


Magnesium for an Effective Menopause Diet 

Entering menopause can be a challenging period that induces stress. The depletion of your body’s Magnesium reserves is common during times of stress, contributing to Magnesium deficiency in most menopausal women. Magnesium plays a crucial role in fostering a tranquil and drowsy sensation while also regulating our body’s internal clock. You can find Magnesium in:

  • Leafy greens, such as dark leafy greens, baby spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Nuts and seeds—create a trail mix using pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, milled linseed, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, and pecans. Add a few dried fruits for a touch of natural sweetness.
  • Fish not only provide Magnesium but also deliver omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Incorporate salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, and tuna into your diet at least once a week to alleviate symptoms.
  • Legumes are nutrient-rich powerhouses containing natural fibre, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Increase your intake of kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, and quinoa.
  • Avocado, a nutritional powerhouse packed with multivitamins and essential nutrients.
  • Bananas which are rich in bone-strengthening potassium and fibre
  • Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content.


Tryptophan, A Boost for Serotonin and Melatonin Production

Discover the key to a restful night’s sleep by incorporating tryptophan-rich foods into your diet. This essential amino acid plays a crucial role in enhancing the production of serotonin and melatonin, the brain chemicals responsible for promoting a sense of calm and inducing sleep.

Include wholegrain oats, brown rice, and quinoa in your meals for a wholesome dose of tryptophan. Additionally, eggs, salmon, chicken, and turkey are excellent protein sources that contribute to the body’s natural synthesis of sleep-inducing neurotransmitters.

For a vegetarian and vegan options, turn to nuts, seeds, and lettuce to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients along with tryptophan. By making these simple dietary adjustments, you can naturally support your body in achieving a more restful night’s sleep.


The Calcium Connection with Sleep

Maintaining adequate calcium levels is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that low calcium levels may be linked to poor sleep quality.  One comforting way to boost your sleep-inducing compounds is by sipping on a warm milky drink before bedtime. Milk contains tryptophan, and pairing it with a carbohydrate snack like nuts, rice cakes, banana, or yoghurt may contribute to increased serotonin levels. Some experts believe that it’s not just the nutritional content but also the familiar bedtime routine that makes a warm drink so effective in helping you drift off to sleep.

And here’s a delightful discovery for cheese lovers: a study by the British Cheese Board revealed that indulging in cheese before bedtime can also aid in falling asleep more easily. Once again, tryptophan takes the spotlight, as cheese, especially varieties like mozzarella and cheddar, is rich in this sleep-promoting amino acid. So, whether you’re sipping on a warm milky concoction or savouring a slice of cheese, you’re hopefully on your way to a good night’s sleep. 


Menopause Insomnia & Nutrition Takeaways

Your menopausal journey requires embracing the changes with knowledge and self-care. We’ve uncovered the intricate relationship between sleep and nutrition during menopause, offering simple yet powerful strategies to enhance your well-being. 

Remember, the relationship between sleep, diet, and menopause health is complex and influenced by various factors. If you’re going through these changes and need personalised guidance, our team of Registered Dietitians in Ireland is here to support you on your menopause quest. Contact us today or book an appointment in Slievemore Clinic in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin. 


Join Our Menopause Nutrition Course

Are you finding yourself lacking in sleep, which is impacting your food choices? If you find yourself struggling with your food choices, whether it be from night shift work, young toddlers ruling the roost, or just simply don’t know where to start, our menopause dietitians can help guide you on the path of a more nurtured mind and body! And if you want to learn more about nutrition for helping to optimise your sleep, why not join our nutrition program, My Menopause Quest. 

Sources of Information 

  1. Spiegel et al., Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet 1999.