As a perimenopausal woman, you may have experienced a variety of symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, feeling cranky and insomnia. During this time, your body’s natural production of oestrogen and progesterone decreases, which can lead to a disruption of the circadian rhythm. This can result in a decrease in melatonin and an increase in cortisol. This hormonal imbalance can be disruptive to your daily life and can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. One way to improve these symptoms is by resetting your circadian rhythm.
But what is the circadian rhythm? Simply put, it is the internal biological clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle of all living things. It is controlled by a small area in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and is influenced by factors such as light, temperature, and social cues. Our circadian rhythm helps the natural order and flow of cortisol and melatonin balance. Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is responsible for managing the body’s response to stress. It also increases in the morning to help us wake up. When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, weight gain, and difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. When melatonin levels are disrupted, it can lead to insomnia, poor sleep quality, and fatigue.
Often, cortisol becomes dominant, due to life stresses; drinking cortisol heighteners such as caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime and watching screens emitting ‘daytime’ blue light at night – all of which disrupt the natural production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, resulting in stress to the body, which can lead to a variety of problems such as insomnia, depression, and even weight gain.
To alleviate these symptoms, it’s essential to take steps to regulate your circadian rhythm and subsequently, your cortisol/melatonin balance to improve your sleep, mood and overall well-being. Here’s a few ideas to help:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends (yep, no lie ins allowed!). This helps to regulate the body’s internal clock and regulate the release of melatonin and cortisol.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment. The bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet.
- Limit exposure to screens before bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronic screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
- Get some sunlight during the day. Sunlight helps regulate the circadian rhythm by signaling to the SCN that it is daytime. Try to spend some time outside during the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Ground yourself by walking barefoot on grass, sand or mud. This helps reconnect you to the earth’s electromagnetic field and reset your balance with nature.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Menopause can be a stressful time, and stress can disrupt the circadian rhythm. Breathwork, yoga and meditation help calm the mind and promote sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Both caffeine and alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and regulate the circadian rhythm. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
Resetting your circadian rhythm can help improve symptoms of menopause as well as promoting better sleep. By sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, creating a fab sleep environment, limiting exposure to screens, getting sunlight during the day, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you can take control of your menopause symptoms and improve your overall health and wellbeing.