Eileen answers your questions on sleepless nights & why the menopause can cause nausea


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward


08 February 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I’ve got two really good questions for you today.

Question 1: Sleepless nights

The first one is from Carol, and she’s 62, and she’s asking, “Can you cover waking up during the night and not getting back to sleep?”  This is such a common one. But there’s an awful lot of different causes for it. So I’ll look at one or two of the reasons why this can happen. And what you really need to do is to have a look at your lifestyle, have a look at your diet and see if there’s anything that you can tweak as well to help.

Sleep problems & low oestrogen

The first and foremost reason why we have a problem going to sleep or waking up when we’re going through the menopause and postmenopausal is low oestrogen levels. And they have actually found that low oestrogen will interfere with your general sleeping pattern at night.

Now, what normally happens, once we get to sleep, we don’t go into a deep sleep and stay there, we have a rhythm. So we would go into a deep sleep for a little while, and then we actually come up a little bit, and it’s at that point where we do all the dreaming. We then go down into a deeper sleep and back up again. And this cycle can happen a number of times during the night.

Now, unfortunately, with low oestrogen, what can happen is that when we rise up to the dream state, we end up coming up too far and that will actually wake you up. And unfortunately, menopausal and postmenopausal women, what do we do? We tend to think a lot. And the minute you wake up, instead of just turning over, shutting your mind off, and trying to get back to sleep, the mind kicks in. So we’re lying there maybe two or three o’clock in the morning, we wake up and suddenly it’s, “Uh, I forgot to do this yesterday. And I must remember to do that tomorrow,” and “Oh my goodness, I’ve got so many things to do next weekend.” And the minute your mind starts to race, and the minute you start to get up just a little bit anxious about what you’ve forgotten to do or what you’ve got to do, that just wakens the whole body up and it’s a lot more difficult to get off to sleep.

So for this type of situation, there are a number of really good remedies. You could look at a phytoestrogen such as Menopause Support if it’s appropriate, just to help to raise and balance your oestrogen levels. You can try Dormeasan® as this is traditionally used to help to keep you asleep, and dehydration and other things can be an issue as well which I will actually come to. 

Night sweats

Now, the other main reason for sleep problems during the menopause is the night sweats. And this is another big one as well. You get off to sleep and then at some point during the night you wake up, you’re absolutely sweating, you’re really, really hot, so you throw off the covers, you then start to chill and then you have to get under again, you get really cold. You can’t get back to sleep or if you do, again the night sweats can wake you up. And you can have a really badly disturbed sleep. And we know that a poor sleep will stress your nervous system and that will make you more vulnerable to menopause symptoms during the day. And if you are then worn out by menopause symptoms during the day, you’re going to find it harder to get off to sleep the next night. And this can become a real vicious circle. So we need to look at ways in which we can minimize or stop the night sweats because if you get a proper night sleep, that’s going to make a huge difference to your general outlook, to pain perception if you’re getting pain for conditions such as joint aches, and also just your daily life, generally.

So the first thing we would normally recommend, if it’s appropriate, is sage. And sage, as I’ve spoken in some of the other blogs, is really effective at helping to stop the night sweats, and also hot flushes as well. So what we would recommend is taking one, or a tablet, or a tincture with your evening meal, or if you’re taking a tincture, you would just take that maybe about half an hour before bed. And what we found is that the sage can actually help to reduce and stop the flushes

Night time caffeine

The other major thing for night-time is caffeine. And that can actually rev up your nervous system, and those of you who watched the blog about anxiety will know that if your nervous systems gets revved up, that will be more likely to trigger sweat and flushes as well.

So it’s really important if you’re drinking a lot of coffee, try and cut down slowly, don’t do it quickly because you’ll end up getting withdrawal headaches. Try and keep any coffee you drink to before 12 o’clock during the day.

One of the really interesting facts is that your liver finds it really hard to deal with chemicals such as caffeine. And your liver can be struggling six to eight hours later with one cup of coffee. So if you’re having even a cup of coffee in mid-afternoon, that can be enough to affect your sleep, stress your nervous system and also trigger the night sweats, as well. 

Here's a good tip...

Now, a lovely little tip that somebody gave me many, many years ago. For those of you that are really struggling with the night sweats and finding that you’re sweating so much, you’re then having to get up and change clothes, or you’re actually having to dab yourself down with a towel. If you’ve seen those real sheep’s wool underlay blankets, apparently if you actually lie on one of those and it has to be real sheep wool not synthetic. Sheep’s wool is actually very good at absorbing moisture, and this particular lady that told me about this said that it actually helped her to sleep all night because this particular sheet was actually soaking the sweat away and she could get a goodnight sleep. So it’s worth trying, anyway.

Your liver

Now, one of the other main issues for waking you up in the middle of the night is your liver. And again, we have touched on this. Your liver is the regulator of your health. Our founder, Alfred Vogel, said it was one of the most important organs in the body because the healthier your liver is, the healthier you’re actually likely to be. It oversees so many things. And the problem is that during the menopause, your liver can get really stressed with all the hormonal changes going on, your digestion can slow down in the menopause, so your liver actually struggles at keeping your whole digestion going, as well. And unfortunately, the liver’s main activity time tends to be roughly between two and three o’clock in the morning. So if your liver has been overworked during the day it’s going to be very wound up, and it’s going to start revving up in the middle of the night, and that can actually be enough to wake you up, as well.

So if you find that every single night it tends to be between two and three o’clock, and maybe by about half past three you think, “Oh, that’s fine. I’m ready to go back to sleep.” It could be your liver. And we’re not talking major liver problems here, it’s just a liver stress, and there is a wonderful combination of herbs called Milk Thistle Complex, and this is traditionally used to help to support liver function.

The other thing you could do, if you wish, if you have the time and the inclination, is to do a very gentle liver detox. And there’s loads of books on Amazon that you can actually look into and maybe try that when you’re on holiday or if you have some quiet time as well. And it can be really helpful. Cleansing and caring for the liver can reduce sluggishness, it can reduce fatigue, it can make you think better, it can give you more energy. So it’s something actually worth doing maybe a couple of times a year just for your general health, as well. 

Anxiety and your liver

Now, I talked a little bit before about anxiety. And we know that a stressed nervous system will rev itself up and actually ping sometime in the middle of the night. It’s a bit like…remember the old-fashioned watches with the spring? And as a child, you can remember tightening them up, and then if you tighten them too much it just went “ding.” And this is what can happen to your liver, it gets more and more under pressure during the day and your nervous system just crashes in the middle of the night.

Now, we need to look at helping to calm the nervous system down. So this is important to do this during the day. So remember, cut your caffeine down. If you feel that anxiety is a big issue, go for one of the lovely stress remedies such as passionflower or wild oat as well, because these can help to calm you down without sedating you during the day. Remember to cut out the coffee, remember the relaxation. If you can actually do a little bit of relaxation in the evening, not just as you get into bed, because if you try and relax or listen to one of these lovely tapes in the middle of night, you’re going to fall asleep possibly before it actually does any good. So maybe, early evening, do some nice relaxation. And that can actually set you up for a good night’s sleep, as well.

And remember technology. We sit and watch telly until five minutes before we go to bed, and some people have their iPads or iPhones beside their bed. So try and keep the bedroom clear of all technology if you can, and also just maybe give yourself 15 minutes peace and quiet before you actually go to bed. So I hope that gives you a little bit of insight into more ways that you can actually help to get a better night sleep.

Question 2: Nausea

Now, the next question. This is a lady called Louise and she has said, “I have hot flushes, etc. But recently I’m suffering from nausea, and it tends to be worse in the morning when I awake.” This is quite interesting because a lot of women think that they will just get one or two menopause symptoms and it will last the whole of the menopause. Now, your hormones are not in a static state. They can fluctuate quite dramatically, and different levels of hormones can trigger different symptoms. So you may find that you start the menopause with hot flushes and six months later, they might disappear. You might end up getting joint pain, and then they ease off. And then it could be the mental fogginess. So you can go through the menopause experiencing quite a range of different symptoms at different times. So for Louise, the nausea is something that just suddenly happened. So we would look at what’s going on in her life at this particular minute.

Now, nausea. This was actually a really big surprise for us because it wasn’t something that was down in the top 10 symptoms of the menopause or the research that we did. But what we have found is that a huge number of women are actually suffering from nausea or feeling sick. And a few unlucky women will actually get sick on a regular basis. So what is going on here? Why is this happening? Why are you getting the nausea?

Well, first of all it’s the fluctuation of oestrogen. So it is a little bit like morning sickness, this particular thing. And a lot of women, like Louise, find that they get the nausea in the morning, and then everything calms down during the day. But nausea can be caused by other factors as well, and dehydration is a real big one. And if you are getting night sweats…so suppose Louise was actually getting night sweats as well, then she’s going to be really dehydrated during the night and that is going to cause a problem with the nausea in the morning. The liver, a stressed liver, can also cause nausea. So remember all the things we talked about just a few minutes ago. 

Blood sugar levels

The other thing can be blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels get too low, that can cause nausea. It can also cause a bit of dizziness, as well. So if you’re getting nausea and dizziness in the morning, then it could be a question of low blood sugar levels. Now, I know that most people say, “Don’t eat in the evening. Don’t eat before you go to bed.” But if you have your evening meal maybe about five, six, seven o’clock at night and you don’t have anything else, then by the time you wake up the next morning, six or seven o’clock in the morning, your blood sugar levels can be very low. And we know that in the menopause, low blood sugar levels tend to become more sensitive.

So what I would say here is if you don’t have a snack, or if you have the wrong one, then look at supporting snacks such as a handful of nuts and seeds, some dried fruits like dried apricots, or dried figs are another really good one, maybe a plain yogurt. One of my favorite night time snacks which makes me feel like I’m being a little bit sinful is some really lovely Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Now, it has to be organic cocoa powder or you could go for the really, really healthy cacao powder. And the cocoa is really high in magnesium and that’s great for helping you to get to sleep. And a teaspoon of good cocoa powder is actually very low in calories. So remember not drinking chocolate, it has to be the real cocoa. And if you actually mix that up into some really lovely Greek yogurt, you’ve got a lovely, yummy kind of chocolaty pudding that you can have for your supper or before you actually go to bed.

If you like fruit you could maybe go for fruits such as apples or pears. Don’t go for the really sweet ones because they tend to give your blood sugar level a little bit of a rush. And the other really important thing for the nausea is to have just a small glass of warmish water before you go to bed as well just to help, just in case the dehydration is an issue, too.

Until next week...

Now hopefully, that’s given you a few little pointers. If you have any questions about anything, please do get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to include your questions in the next session of questions and answers. So, I look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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