Posted on Jul 07, 2023, 12 p.m.
Breakfast at bedtime, or "sleep-friendly eating," during menopause, involves consuming specific foods and nutrients before going to bed to improve sleep quality. This is particularly helpful for women struggling to get a good night's rest.
During menopause, hormonal changes can often disrupt sleep patterns and lead to difficulties falling or staying asleep. Other issues they might experience include disrupted sleep patterns, insomnia, hot flashes, and night sweats. While no magical food can guarantee better sleep, making certain dietary choices can help promote better sleep overall.
Eat Light, Balanced Meals
Aim to eat light, balanced meals that include a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. This combination helps to regulate blood sugar levels and provides sustained energy throughout the night (or day). For example, you can eat scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and avocado.
Refined carbohydrates are enticing because they are easier to eat and often taste nicer. However, complex carbohydrates are a better option for a few reasons. Not only do they have a lower Glycemic Index (GI), but they can help to increase the body's natural production of serotonin. This happy hormone plays a crucial role in combating depression and aiding relaxation and sleep.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals, as well as oatmeal.
It is believed that calcium may help to regulate melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a vital role in the sleep-wake cycle. Foods high in calcium include dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk, green leafy vegetables, and fortified products like plant-based milk or cereals.
Additionally, your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. You get vitamin D through safe sun exposure and eating egg yolks and fatty fish like salmon.
We spoke earlier of complex carbohydrates that promote the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is most helpful for aiding sleep. We also saw how calcium can help with melatonin production.
However, something that can help with both serotonin and melatonin production is the amino acid called tryptophan, which is found in many proteins. Excellent sources of tryptophan include turkey, chicken, eggs, walnuts, seeds, tofu, and dairy products.
Soy-rich foods may help to reduce night sweats and hot flashes synonymous with menopause. So, by reducing the likelihood of these symptoms, you have a better chance of uninterrupted sleep. Soy-rich foods include soybeans, soy milk, miso, edamame, tofu, and tempeh.
Magnesium helps to relax muscles and promote a sense of calmness, which may help to improve a menopausal woman's sleep quality. Foods rich in magnesium include the following:
- Almonds and other nuts
- Spinach and other green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
Avoid Heavy or Spicy Foods and Large Portions
Foods that are heavy or spicy or portions that are too large can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and consequently disrupt sleep. Therefore, it's best to avoid consuming them in the evening and too close to bedtime. Instead, use mild seasoning and herbs to add flavor to your meals.
It's also better to avoid midnight snacks or late-night meals as your body should preferably have time to digest most of it before going to bed. Otherwise, your body has to "work" on digesting when it's meant to be resting and regenerating itself, disrupting your circadian rhythm and sleep quality.
Limit Sugar Intake
Consuming sugary foods and beverages before bedtime can cause blood sugar fluctuations that may disrupt sleep and promote menopausal weight gain. In fact, it's preferable to reduce processed sugar intake as far as possible, as many whole foods already contain natural sugars. If you do need to sweeten something, rather opt for natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol might interfere with your sleep, so it's best to avoid them in the hours leading up to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant found in some teas and coffee (unless it's decaf or herbal). While it's alright to have either in the morning, limiting your intake of caffeine and other stimulants (e.g., energy drinks) in the hours leading up to bedtime is best.
Alcohol is a depressant that is packed with "empty calories" and sugars. While it is commonplace for some people to have a nightcap before bed, it's not advisable to overdo your alcohol intake. Once the alcohol has worn off, your body will still be busy processing the sugars, so you might find yourself awake at an odd time, unable to sleep.
Herbal Teas and Supplements
Certain herbal teas and supplements have relaxing and sleep-promoting properties that can be soothing if sipped before bedtime. Popular choices include chamomile and valerian root tea; however, you can also try lavender tea. If you can't find lavender tea, break off a small bit of lavender and stir your tea with it before going to bed.
As with all supplements and herbal remedies, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your routine.
Finally, practice mindful eating during your meals, especially before bedtime. Mindful eating means taking your time, savoring each bite, and paying attention to how different foods make you feel. This can help lower stress levels and promote a more relaxed state conducive to better sleep. Plus, it can help you to know yourself better and how different foods affect you.
In conclusion, what you eat can play a major role in your quality of sleep. Studies show that an astounding 63% of menopausal women say that they feel drowsy at work, and 29% suffer a loss of confidence due to memory difficulties—something else that lack of sleep can affect too. If changing eating habits can reduce these issues, it’s worthwhile.
However, always remember that individual responses to foods can vary, so paying attention to your body and adjusting your "breakfast at bedtime" choices based on what works best for you is essential. Additionally, adopting a consistent sleep schedule, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and managing stress can all contribute to improved sleep during menopause.
This article was written for WHN by Karen Bradford, who is a content creator, wordsmith, blogger, and health advocate
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
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