Perimenopause and Sleep with Emily Barclay
If you are a woman in her late 30s or 40s and experiencing symptoms such as crazy mood swings, crying spells, weight gain, anxiety and sleep issues - welcome to the perimenopause club!
Perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.
You must wonder why I am writing about perimenopause on a sleep blog.
Well, many women experience sleep problems during this period of their life.
And this is often linked to a change in hormones and inflammation or dysbiosis in the gut making these changes even more dramatic.
On one of our latest episodes of the Sleep Like a Boss podcast, I got to sit down with Emily Barclay to talk about this exact topic.
At 39, Emily started experiencing feeling sof anger, she was exhausted, was gaining weight (even though she was doing triathlons) and went on a 3.5 year-journey with over a dozen doctors visits just to be dismissed and told she had too much stress.
After three and a half years of perimenopause symptoms and no answers, Emily set up the Perimenopause Hub to bring together a panel of experts to ensure no woman felt as lost as she had. To date, the associated Facebook group has over 50,000 women, all benefiting from the help available.
I am happy to be among that panel of experts as one of the sleep & health coaches on the team.
Emily’s Perimenopause Journey
Emily’s perimenopause journey started when she was 39.
At that time, she had never heard the word perimenopause and going from one doctor to another was getting her nowhere.
During that time, she was also just getting started with a new job and training for a triathlon, so much of it was just written off as stress. Besides, she was still getting her period regularly, so how could it be related to menopause?
After tracking her symptoms for three and a half years and seeing specific patterns that correlated with her cycle, things slowly started to get into place. After sharing her findings with her physician, she finally got an answer - perimenopause.
Then she did what we all do - go and google.
But Emily’s reason for going on Google was not to self-diagnose (she already knew her diagnosis) but to find support and experts on the subjects.
After looking for a while, she noticed that this topic not talked about a lot.
There was a lot of information about menopause and women in their fifties who lost their periods, but there Emily was - 42 with her period and no support online. So, she decided to take things into her own hands, and that is how Perimenopause Hub was born.
Is Perimenopause a new phenomenon?
In our conversation, Emily and I discuss the question of - is perimenopause a new phenomenon. Because if you think about it, most of us don’t remember our moms going through this process or struggling for years with symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, sleep issues.
Why is that?
Emily has a theory (which I fully support) that since we are the first generation of women who were told they could (and should) have it all: a home, a family, a business, etc., we fill our lives with so much stress that it eventually pushes us into perimenopause earlier because one thing our hormones hate is stress.
Don’t get me wrong - as women,, we should have it all, and we can, but we need to do it in a way that aligns with us.
We need to do it in a way that leaves room for self-care and that “me” time where we can focus on ourselves and our own needs and not worry about anyone else. This doesn’t mean that we should do 8 hours of meditation or journaling every day, it just means that we should find those little pockets of time throughout our day consistently where we take care of ourselves in whatever way we need.
Perimenopause and Sleep
As with anything involving hormones, rapid changes in hormone levels during perimenopause can dramatically affect your sleep quality.
As we progress into peri-menopause our sex hormone levels drop.
Progesterone - the hormone that makes us feel calm and relaxed can already start declining in our mid 30s. This then immediately causes a case of estrogen dominance (more estrogen than progesterone) since there isn’t enough progesterone available anymore too balance estrogen.
Low progesterone in itself can cause sleep issues. And paired with higher levels of estrogen, this can cause symptoms of anxiety or tearfulness (these crazy crying spells) and night sweats, which often then also cause problems with sleep.
Eventually, estrogen will also become low. This might show as foggy thinking, memory lapses, sleep issues and more.
Before it actually declines, it will go on an erratic roller coaster ride with higher levels one month and lower levels the next, often causing mood issues and PMS symptoms.
Emiliy and I talk about how - if our bodies are stressed - our hormones don’t play along.
What is often overlooked is the interplay between cortisol and our sex hormones.
So, if we are chronically stressed - either because we put everyone else first, are a high-achiever, worrying-type or because we have inflammation in our gut that causes the constant release of cortisol (as the body’s own anti-inflammatory) the body actually uses hormones like progesterone to convert it into cortisol to give us more energy.
But we need progesterone to feel good and counterbalance estrogen.
All of these changes in your body can affect your sleep, so it’s crucial that you listen to your body and to what it needs.
And this is why at Sleep Like A Boss, we run a DUTCH Hormone Test on our clients. We also look at gut health and levels of inflammation to address all these naturally and help the body balance itself so you can feel full of energy, happier and sleep!
If you’re interested in learning more about Emily and her work, visit her website.
And if you feel like things are starting to change, and you might be starting your perimenopause journey, join Emily’s Facebook group.
If you feel like your hormones might be affecting your sleep, let's talk and get you tested.
Good sleep requires balanced hormones - and balanced hormones require a healthy gut and the right nutrients. All this is what we look at to find the imbalances in your body that cause stress that keeps you up.