Enjoy this guest post about sleep by Joanne Lee Cornish. That elusive, magical healing whose lack seems to affect so many Menopause Goddesses just might be cultivated in a natural way.
The Sleep Solution by Joanne Lee Cornish
As a teenager, I remember my mother pacing the house at night. We had wooden stairs, and I recall the sound of her fancy wedge slippers going up and down that staircase all night. She said that once you had a child, good sleep became a thing of the past.
There’s certainly something to that. The ever-attentive ear of motherhood probably lingers for many years more than it’s needed but when I was a teenager my mum was in her early 50’s, and I suspect there was more to her night stalking than just being a habitual light sleeper.
The National Sleep Foundation finds that Americans sleep on average 6 hours and 40 minutes a night compared to 10 hours before the invention of the lightbulb!
Sleep problems affect almost 70% of the population and women over the age of 40 reports it as being one of the biggest issues affecting their quality of life.
Sleep is controlled by two dominant processes; circadian rhythm and homeostatic.
Homeostatic refers to the sleep drive which increases during the day until a critical threshold is reached,
Circadian rhythm refers to the signals generated by our master clock. “Circa diem” literally means “approximately one day” and our clock is set to slightly over 24 hours. Our circadian cycle is sensitive to many environmental cues with light and dark being one of the most influential.
In humans, the alertness pattern shows a midday decrease between 2 and 4 pm followed by increased alertness during the mid to late evening before it finally drops to its lowest levels during the night. When we try to fight this natural ebb and flow of energy, problems arise and lead to various sleep disorders.
In 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified night shift work from a ‘possible’ to a ‘probable’ human carcinogen.
A Danish industrial injuries board went so far as to award compensation to female shift workers. The ladies had developed cancer after 20 years of shift work.
Sleep is incredibly important to our health, happiness and on a shallow level, our looks.
My initial interest in sleep was indeed very shallow.
I have a weight loss company called The Shrink Shop, and I was a personal trainer in Los Angeles for over 24 years. As I got older my clientele seemed to age with me and given even the best advice and killer workouts my female clients were having a really hard time losing weight. I’m all about numbers and leave nothing to chance so I knew their exercise was on point, I measured their metabolic rates and locked down their macros, and still my ladies struggled.
The one common denominator that kept raising its ugly head, was lack of sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation found that less than 5 hours sleep a night increased a persons chance of being overweight by 32% (compared to someone sleeping 7-8 hours) even 6 hours a night (which is pretty close to the national average) increased the risk by 12%.
The largest study was in 1986 and followed 70000 middle-aged women for 10 years. Those who slept 5 hours or less gained, on average, 16lb over the length of the study.
The cruel irony is if you sleep less you probably move more, on average 1500 steps per day more, and still the weight gain happens. My female clients weren’t losing weight and they were also dealing with hot flashes, anxiety and full-blown panic attacks – not conducive to a good nights sleep. In desperation, they were reaching for prescription meds or overdosing on over the counter more natural remedies.
To speak to menopausal ladies about the power of hormones is like preaching to the choir.
As we enter menopause Estrogen can start acting erratically, it can cause horrendous night sweats and it affects another big player, Cortisol. In our younger years estrogen inhibits the stress hormone cortisol and when Estrogen starts to decline this fat storing hormone is able to climb. Elevated Cortisol can increase blood pressure, increase blood sugar and because it’s a stress hormone it promotes panic disorders.
Menopause will increase cortisol but so will lack of sleep. The less REM sleep you get, the higher your cortisol levels.
Estrogen also plays a major role with Serotonin, our calming, feel-good neurotransmitter. Estrogen helps to regulate serotonin. When estrogen declines so does serotonin and capable, confident ladies start to suffer from unstable moods and debilitating anxiety.
Sleep disorders take many different forms. In my mother’s case, a pin drop would wake her up. An anxious mind will have you searching the ceiling for a solution and the frustration of not being able to stay asleep will keep you from getting the all-powerful REM sleep, which comes at the end of each 90-minute sleep cycle.
REM (rapid eye movement) is 25% of your total sleep (hopefully) and it follows the 4 stages of NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is where the magic happens but if you wake up every hour you’re going to miss it.
REM is when you organize your office. You file your thoughts and memories away and leave your desk neat and tidy. If you never get to organize your office your thoughts and memories are in chaos. Nightmares and chaotic dreams can be due to lack of REM sleep.
Our sleep goes in cycles, REM sleep being that last part of a 5 stage cycle. Unlike some animals we don’t wake up after REM sleep, we just repeat the cycle. We enter REM sleep after the first 50-60 minutes of sleep and as the cycles progress REM takes up a larger portion until REM sleep dominates the latter half of our sleep period.
If you wake frequently and have to get up early you’re missing a huge amount REM sleep. You will not have a happy head.
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good nights sleep”
AND MY PANTS DON’T FIT!
Sleep deprivation can interfere with your ability to metabolize carbohydrates, it will increase cortisol, which loves to sit around your midsection and it will drive up hunger and your appetite for fun foods.
LEPTIN from the Greek ‘Lepos’ (thin) was discovered in 1994 and suppresses our appetite. Lack of sleep drives Leptin down causing major sugar cravings.
GHRELIN was discovered not long after leptin(1999) and is what makes us hungry. Ghrelin rises before a meal and drops afterward. Lack of sleep keeps Ghrelin high (so do prolonged very low-calorie diets) One study reported that once sleep deprived, people ate 30% more than they would normally.
Maneuvering our way through menopause is challenging enough without sleep (or lack of) altering our mood, energy and eating behavior.
Although mother nature may set us up for the battle of our life during menopause, she has also provided us with the remedies we need to soften the ride.
I have an opinion, but I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to taking prescription meds for sleep. Nonetheless, my observation is they may not help, and they may lead to an uncomfortable dependence.
Trying to avoid the prescription route people reach for the hugely popular Melatonin, again this is a personal choice, my only issue is that melatonin is not the ideal solution for many causes of insomnia. Melatonin can also have a paradoxical reaction, meaning that taking too much of it can have the exact opposite effect leaving you feeling wired.
Melatonin is a darkness simulator, especially useful when your natural sleep pattern is disturbed, if you travel between time zones or spend a lot of time in front of glowing gadgets. If you are unable to stay asleep or have an overactive mind or suffer pain and discomfort, there are better remedies. The mistake is when melatonin doesnt work, so people take a few more pills or a higher dose. This can leave them wired and then hugely hung over the next day. You don’t use a spoon to cut a steak, there’s nothing wrong with the spoon, but it’s not intended to cut steak.
In 2015 I was seeing so many ladies with sleep issues and popping pills or just plain suffering, that I developed my own all natural Sleep Formula. I’ve always had a basic supplement line but this was the first product that took wings and I had to start mass producing it.
The power of this product is in the combination of its ingredients. Often we buy a product with just one ingredient (Melatonin, Valerian, Magnesium etc) but because of the multi faceted nature of sleep deprivation I found that combining 12 different compounds addressed most of the reasons for insomnia whilst promoting the reemergence of natural sleep patterns and cortisol reduction.
We’ll start with the ones I am sure you have all heard of:
Calcium – a natural relaxant that promotes a feeling of calm
B6 – normalizes our sleep/wake patterns and is required to make serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that controls mood, appetite, sensitivity to pain and … sleep.
Magnesium – relaxes physical tension and tight muscles.
Melatonin – a hormone released from the pineal gland in the brain. The Pineal gland is inactive during daytime but is triggered into action by the darkness of night. Once released melatonin enters the blood and you start to feel less alert and more ready for sleep. Melatonin is found naturally in small doses in meats, grains and vegetables.
GABA (an amino acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that dampens nerve activity in the Central Nervous System leading to a feeling of calm and relaxation. Valerian Root is a popular herb for sleep which increases GABA.
Hops Flower is similar to Valerian as it is a sedative and hypnotic herb. Made from the female flower of the hops plant, Hops Flower is a popular herb often used in combination with Valerian Root. Both are well tolerated and have been used for centuries.
Skullcap is a muscle relaxant and used for headaches, especially tension headaches.
Chamomile is used for nervous energy and mental anxiety
Passionflower a fabulous addition as it’s the herb that helps keep you asleep! Often used on its own for this one reason.
L Taurine also increases GABA and vegetarians are at risk for being deficient as it is found naturally in
Inositol a sugar found in citrus fruits (negligible calories) that activates pathways to stop your mind from racing. Inositol quietens that mental chatter that seemingly gets louder when we try to sleep. Inositol activates serotonin and promotes the calmness needed for sleep.
Natural remedies can be very potent and have been used safely for thousands of years and yet our belief in the Rx bottle seems to outweigh our trust in them. To sedate you into sleep without addressing the actual cause is unlikely to leave you feeling chipper the next day and will not promote the natural stages of the sleep cycle. Being unconscious should not be confused with being asleep.
Originally designed to help my female clients reach their physical goals it has been astonishing to see how many men have been buying Sleep Formula. It has always been my experience that men have a inborn propensity for sleep, from my Dad snoring through the news to my husband asleep on the plane before take off, but it seems they struggle too.
If you do choose to give this product a try, share the love.
You can find our Sleep Formula on Amazon www.theshrinkshopsleep.com
As a personal thank you I would like to offer a free bottle of The Sleep Formula to the first 10 people who comment on this post. Please include an email address so that I can contact you for your mailing address. If you miss the top 10 please email me and I will send you a discount coupon so everyone’s a winner!
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake”
Joanne Lee Cornish
Founder of The Shrink Shop education and products to support people in their health and weight loss goals
Joanne is 50 years old and lives between Los Angeles and Eagle Idaho. Former professional athlete she is a certified nutritionist and was one of the most recognizable personal trainers in Gold Gym Venice CA for over 24 years.
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