What to eat to sleep better during menopause


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward


25 March 2019

Today's topic

Today we're going to be looking at what to eat to sleep better. So why can food have such an effect on our sleep? Well, there's a whole range of foods and drinks that can really disrupt your sleep, but there are also foods that can help you get a better night's sleep.

Menopause and its impact on your digestion

It's not just about food itself; it's also about your digestion. One of the things we know is that falling oestrogen in the peri-menopause, and then the menopause itself, can affect our digestion. It can make it slow down. It can make it much more difficult to digest food. That slowness and difficulty in breaking foods down takes up a lot of energy.

Now, if you're having heavy meals, especially at night, then one of the reasons they're not really good for you is because your digestive system basically drains you of energy in trying to break down all these foods, particularly if they're the really, really heavy ones.

So what we're going to look at are foods that are going to help your digestion during the night, so that your churning stomach isn't going to wake you up. These foods will also have a calming effect on your nervous system and some of them can even help to trigger those sleeping-inducing hormones.

So this is an all-round situation, if you like. We're going to put less stress on the digestive system. We're going to give you lovely, healing, calming foods that will help you to sleep better.

First of all, remember to try to have lighter meals in the evening, instead of a big heavy one. A lot of people do say to me that by midevening they’re a little bit hungry but the good news is that snacks are really important in the menopause, especially a nighttime snack.

Now, this is going completely against the grain because I know in a lot sleep information leaflets will say ‘don't eat too near bedtime’. However, in the menopause, lots of things end up going topsy-turvy and this is one of them.

Menopause and your blood sugar levels

One of the reasons you get poor sleep is because your blood sugar levels dip too low in the middle of the night and that will wake you up, sometimes with a panic attack.

Your heart might be racing; you might find that it triggers a flush or you might find that you need to get up and run to the toilet. Thus, anything that's going to stabilise your blood sugars during the night is going to have a really good positive effect on sleep, so we're looking here at good healthy snacks.

And I know there are those of you out there who are saying, "But I need to watch my weight. If I start eating snacks, it's not going to do me any good". The snacks I'm going to mention, most of them are all round about a hundred calories, so they're not going to affect your weight, and they're not going to cause any particular problems for you either.

Foods which can help you sleep better

So the foods that we're looking at to help to support our sleep are foods that contain protein, healthy fats, and fibre. What sorts of things can you eat then?

What time at night should you stop eating?

Now, before I discuss foods, we need to look at the timing. Don't just eat a snack just half an hour before you jump into bed. You're looking at an hour and a half to an hour before you're ready to go to bed, and that will still give your digestion plenty of time to get started, so it's not stressing your system while you're trying to get to sleep.

5 evening snacks which I recommend

Some of my favourite snacks I'm going to tell you about now.

1. Greek yoghurt with coco powder (or berries/chia seeds/nuts)

For those of you that have been with me a while, you'll know that I really love full-fat Greek yogurt and organic cocoa powder. Some of you, I know, have said that you don't like it.

I think it's a bit like Marmite. You either love this or you hate it. It's just a couple of dessert spoons of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt and put in a heaped teaspoon of organic cocoa powder and mix it very slowly.

You'll get a lovely, chocolaty mousse and this, to be honest, this is my favourite one because it feels as if I'm having a real treat. It's not sweet, but it will really help to calm the blood sugars. There are so many women have told me that this has made such a difference really quickly to their nighttime sleep.

If you don't fancy the cocoa powder, have the Greek yoghurt with a handful of nuts and seeds or some really nice berries. So you can choose your perfect topping if you like to go with it, as long as it's not-too-high calorie and it's not full of sugar.

2. Oatcakes with cheese or nut butter

Number two is oatcakes. I love oatcakes. So you can have an oatcake with ordinary cheese, if you take dairy, or you can spread it with a nut butter. Almond butter, I think, is my favourite one. You can certainly have peanut butter. Just check the nut butters don't have sugar in them because I know some forms of peanut butter have quite a high sugar content and that's not really what you want.

I wouldn't recommend rice cakes because they will give you a really quick blood sugar spike, so it needs to be things like oatcakes or maybe a Ryvita if you would prefer something like that.

3. Cold meat sandwich on wholegrain bread with lettuce

If you want a little cold meat sandwich, have just a small sandwich with some nitrate-free cold meat on it, maybe a little bit of lettuce as well. Whole grain bread is also going to give you a lovely hit of good fibre.

You're going to have your fat, and you're going to have your protein in that particular sandwich as well. You can spread it with a tiny little bit of butter if you want to, or maybe a little bit of mayonnaise if you fancy that instead.

4. Apple slices with peanut butter

Another favourite of mine which sounds a bit strange, but is really very, very nice and that's a sliced apple, again, spread with nut butter or peanut butter. You know these nut butters are absolutely great because they cover so many different aspects of your protein, your fibre, and also your healthy fats as well.

5. Avocado with mayo or cream cheese

For those of you that want something a little bit lighter or little bit fresher, have a small avocado with just a little teaspoon of mayonnaise or cream cheese in the little dip in the middle.

So as you can see, there's a whole range of really nice, healthy, but low-calorie snacks that you can have just before bed. I'd love you to try some of them and let me know how you get on. Did having an evening snack make your sleep better?

Hopefully, this whole month has been helpful for you as well. We would love to hear your feedback. And until then, I will look forward to seeing you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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