Understanding the transition, managing symptoms, and embracing natural strategies for better sleep and hormonal balance.
First and foremost, what is perimenopause?
In essence, it means “around menopause.” It refers to the time period when a woman’s body transitions to menopause. A bittersweet milestone, it marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
For most, menopause develops gradually. During this transition time (between the ages of 45 and 55), menstrual periods become more irregular. For some, they lengthen — for others, they shorten. Regardless, it’s common for these cycles to be anovulatory. Meaning, the ovaries don’t release an egg (ovulate). Eventually, cycles begin to taper off. Once menstrual periods have stopped for 12 months, a woman is considered to have reached menopause.
Inevitably, the time leading up to menopause is a physical and emotional roller coaster. This journey can come with a host of symptoms triggered by hormonal shifts: hot flashes, insomnia, mood fluctuations, cravings, and more. To ease these symptoms, naturally, be mindful of your diet and lifestyle.
- Focus on foods rich in calcium (squash, sardines, beans, lentils, organic dairy, non-GMO miso, almonds, etc.).
- Eat routinely throughout the day to support balanced blood sugar.
- Reduce refined sugar and alcohol.
- Maintain vitamin D supplementation (speak with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D).
- Exercise regularly — strength training is particularly helpful!
- Incorporate a daily meditation practice — we love this walking meditation.
Last but not least, don’t forget about seed cycling! Yes, you can seed cycle as a perimenopausal or post-menopasual woman. Start on any day and follow the same 2-week rotation plan. Since levels of estrogen and progesterone naturally decline during menopause, seed cycling can provide extra support to alleviate symptoms associated with lower hormone levels.
Speaking of perimenopause, many women experience sleep issues as their hormones fluctuate. Estradiol — a form of estrogen — is one of the hormones involved in sleep woes during perimenopause. As estrogen and progesterone begin to decrease, sleep can take a hit. Luckily, you can naturally support your sleep cycles as you age.
In addition to daily movement, reducing stress, and eating protein-forward meals, one of the best ways to support your body during perimenopause is by getting quality sleep. Along with the 10-3-2-1-0 sleep method below, consider wearing a sleep mask. After all, your sleep environment is super important.
Yes, a cool, dark room (approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal, but so is blocking out any external stimuli. By doing so, your body can effectively focus on both falling asleep and reaching REM sleep. This study proves that eye masks and earplugs help subjects reach REM sleep, faster.
10-3-2-1-0 sleep method.
Have trouble falling asleep? We have just the hack for you. Dr. Jess Andrade’s sleep hygiene may be just what the doctor ordered. In her 10-3-2-1-0 sleep formula, Dr. Andrade outlines how to maximize your zzZzzs:
10 hours before sleep: Limit / avoid caffeinated drinks. They take around 10 hours to clear the bloodstream and eliminate stimulatory effects.
3 hours before sleep: Finish eating big meals or alcohol to reduce symptoms of acid reflux. Plus, alcohol impairs your natural sleep cycle, reducing good quality sleep. Keep in mind that many of us need a small snack before bed to keep us from waking up starving. Listen to your body and aim for a balanced snack before bed: raspberries and a spoonful of peanut butter; a rice cake with mashed avocado and nutritional yeast; a slice of turkey rolled up with a smear of hummus.
2 hours before sleep: No more work. Relax your brain and write down tasks for the next day. This is also a good time to dim lights and light candles.
1 hour before sleep: Reduce electronics as blue light disrupts the body’s natural sleep cycle.
0: Don’t hit your snooze button! You’ll end up feeling more groggy and this leads to inconsistent sleep patterns. If necessary, keep your phone / alarm away from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off.
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