5 ways to beat menopause fatigue
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Maybe you weren’t expecting to feel like a 21-year-old again, with endless (and, quite frankly, audacious) energy reserves. But this? The extreme exhaustion, the brain fog, the heavy inclination to nap every few minutes? No one prepared you for this.
Fatigue can be caused by many things, and it’s not always immediately obvious what the root problem is. Yet one thing is clear: fatigue is something that hits peri- and postmenopausal women harder than their younger counterparts. A 2018 study of 300 Ecuadorian women found that 85% of postmenopausal women and 46% of perimenopausal women reported feeling both physically and mentally exhausted, compared to just 19% of premenopausal women. That’s a pretty big difference.
So if that’s the case, what is the link between menopause and fatigue?
Hormonal fluctuations are the culprit behind almost all perimenopausal woes, so it would make sense if they’re also contributing to a sense of fatigue. It may be that the constant shift in oestrogen and progesterone levels is tiring you out. Alternatively, the symptoms that these fluctuations can cause might be to blame. For example, hot flushes and night sweats can noticeably impact your ability to sleep properly.
Stress may be another culprit. Again, this is a universal symptom that is not always directly linked to menopause. But going through such a transformative period can take its toll on your nervous system, and unsurprisingly, scientists have found that fatigue can result from overexposure to stress. It might even be the case that stress contributes to hot flushes, though more research is required to confirm this.
Alternatively, you might not be getting enough shut-eye. Many people suffer from poor sleep, but menopausal symptoms like night sweats and anxiety can make getting a good night’s rest even more difficult. According to one study, 26% of perimenopausal women suffered from severe sleep issues that impacted their daily life.
Finally, a word on brain fog. The clue is in the name, but brain fog can be characterised by feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, and a general lack of focus and mental clarity. It is not uncommon to feel exhausted despite having slept enough. Typical causes include stress, lack of sleep and over-exposure to blue lights. Brain fog can negatively impact your ability to feel energised and clear-headed.
The five best ways to beat menopause fatigue
Now you know the main causes of menopausal fatigue. But even if knowledge is power, that doesn’t dispel the thick, heavy cloud of exhaustion that is still following you around. So we’ve compiled our five best tips to curb that cloud and boost your energy levels. These tips look at the importance of rest, sleep, stress relief and exercise as well as highlighting the best supplements to take. We haven’t included HRT, which may be used to alleviate some of the symptoms that are affecting your energy levels, but you can get a complete lowdown on this form of therapy here.
1. Get some rest
It sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But we’re going to dig a little bit deeper here. There are many different types of rest, not just those gorgeous mid-afternoon snoozes on the sofa (though we’re big fans of them!). Life can be a hectic whirlwind, even without those pesky perimenopausal symptoms cropping up, so it’s important to give your brain a bit of respite. This can do wonders for easing any mental burdens that are weighing you down. Below, we have chosen our favourite tips from the popular ‘Boost your energy’ program in the Olivia app.
You can explore:
Passive rest. Okay, so maybe napping is at the top of our list! We are, after all, professional nappers here at Olivia HQ. You can also try stretching, gentle yoga, or even just sitting still. Passive rest helps your mind unwind, which makes it easier to deal with stress and prepares you for a much more satisfying and deeper sleep later on.
Journalling. This is one of the most nourishing forms of emotional rest that you can engage in. You might not realise how many different thoughts and worries are weighing you down, but getting pen to paper can be a great way to ease the burden on your mind and process your emotions. Best enjoyed as a morning palette cleanser to kick-start your day, or as part of a night-time routine to unwind.
Low-key days. It’s very important to schedule low-key activities or even whole days of absolute nothingness. Modern life often seems to take place at breakneck speed, making it difficult to catch time for yourself, so make sure to schedule these moments in. Doing so allows your brain to properly rest and recharge from all the daily impressions and thoughts that might be contributing to fatigue. Why not try a long walk in the woods, a cosy time with your favourite book, or some quiet time with watercolours? Whatever it is that gets you back to yourself.
2. Get better sleep
As noted above, poor quality sleep can wreak havoc on your energy levels. If getting decent shut-eye is a big problem for you, then we have the app for that. Specially curated by 2Heal Clinic health coach Carolina Enberg, Olivia’s in-app sleep program is designed to have you drifting off like a baby in no time. Until then, let’s have a look at our favourite tips from the program. Proper sleep is the cornerstone of good physical and mental wellbeing, and optimising your sleep routine is one of the best ways to restore energy levels.
Sleep hygiene. Aka, pimp your night-time routine to make it oh so very easy to drift off. The most important tip we can give you is to avoid screens for 60 minutes before heading to sleep (brownie points if you can manage more!). Set the scene with low lighting (candles if you’re feeling fancy) and relax with some journalling, meditation, or a good book. Doing so lets you properly unwind, priming your brain for deeper and more satisfying sleep.
Set a bedtime. Have a consistent and realistic bedtime that you know you can stick to at least five days a week. Sticking to a sleep schedule will prime your brain to start to feel sleepy at the same time each evening. An inconsistent bedtime will throw your circadian rhythm out of whack, meaning your body won’t know when it’s time to start dozing off.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine. We know. Do you hate us? But this is an important one. Alcohol might appear to make you feel asleep quicker, but it metabolises in your body as you sleep, producing the compound aldehyde which blocks REM sleep. This results in a much poorer quality of sleep, contributing to that worn-out, ropey feeling.
As for caffeine? With a lifetime of ten to twelve hours, any post-lunch coffee will most likely still be in your system by the time you hit the hay (depending on how your body metabolises caffeine). Keeping caffeine as a strictly morning habit, or avoiding it altogether, lays the best foundations for blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
Get some rays. 20-30 minutes of sunlight in the morning helps support your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock. This means you will naturally feel sleepier at the right time in the evening. Plus, it should give you a serotonin boost. This chemical is thought to ease anxiety and promote feelings of happiness, helping you feel energised and ready for the day. What’s not to love?
3. Get some supplements
Sometimes, a little helping hand is all you need. Do racing thoughts make it hard to drift off? Maybe night sweats are getting in the way of a full night’s sleep. Maybe you just want a full-on energy boost, to kickstart your day.
Supplements can be a great alternative to explore. It’s worth noting that this is an area requiring more research, with conclusive scientific evidence to back up claims sometimes lacking. However, as many of these therapies have been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years, they could be worth exploring. We’ve summed up our favourite supplements to combat hot flushes, anxiety, stress and brain fog, to reduce the impact that these symptoms have on your energy levels. We also threw in a couple of energy-boosting supplements, cos that’s just what we’re like!
To combat hot flushes. A 2018 study found that black cohosh was effective in reducing the severity of hot flushes in menopausal women. A small study of 117 women found that shatavari helped reduce night flushes when combined with other Ayurvedic herbs. Korean ginseng, maca and astragalus root are other options to explore.
To combat anxiety and stress. You want to opt for adaptogens here, as these are plants that purportedly help your body adapt to stress (though more research is needed to support this claim). Ashwagandha is meant to be particularly effective, with many claiming it helps them drift off quicker in the nighttime. Studies on shatavari noted that this plant helped reduce anxiety and stress in rats. Maca, holy basil and astragalus root are also adaptogens that are meant to be particularly effective against stress.
To boost your energy. There is some evidence to suggest that ginseng and astragalus root may be useful in combating symptoms of fatigue. A 2018 study noted some improvements in menopausal women with fatigue after taking a high dose of soy lecithin.
To beat brain fog. This is a common menopausal complaint and can contribute to feelings of fatigue. Problems with memory and concentration are sometimes attributable to low levels of certain B vitamins, such as B6 and B12. Therefore, taking B6 and B12 supplements may help reduce brain fog. Omega-3 fats are also important for brain cognition; aim for two servings of fish a week, or the corresponding amount in supplements. There is some limited evidence that ginkgo biloba can also aid in cognitive function.
4. Get more exercise
You’re probably not surprised to see this one on the list, are you? A 2015 study found that moderate to vigorous physical activity improved feelings of energy in postmenopausal women. We can’t argue with that evidence! It’s up to you which type of exercise feels the most appropriate, but here’s a list of tips to get you moving. Feel free to start small and progress from there:
Strength training. You can read our article here about how beneficial this type of exercise is for menopausal women.
Cardio. Get your sweat on with running, swimming, walking, dancing…the list is endless!
Yoga. Olivia interviewed the queens of menopause who run a yoga studio specifically for menopausal women. Our article details the different forms of yoga available and their different benefits. Why not see if there’s anything that appeals to you?
Activities and sports. What about trying badminton with your partner or squash with some friends? Have you always wanted to give football a go, or extreme frisbee? If you’re concerned about being able to keep up, look at what activities are available for your specific age group. Warning: this option may contain a lot of fun!
5. Get your calm on
Menopause can be a challenging experience, for various reasons. As you know, stress can contribute to fatigue, so it’s a no-brainer that reducing any mental strain could positively impact your energy levels. We’ve taken our favourite tips from Olivia’s own program on stress relief, created by expert health coach Anette Lindquist from 2Heal Clinic.
Cold showers. Before you run away screaming, cold showers can be a great way to ease stress. In a process known as hardening, you gradually build up your tolerance to moderate amounts of stress and discomfort. This can then help you to keep a cool head the next time you’re in a challenging situation.
When you’re in the shower, turn the temperature down as low as you can. To begin with, stay there for at least thirty seconds. Deep, heavy breaths will help you through this, as you don’t want to hyperventilate. The added bonus is that cold showers wake you up and give you a burst of energy as well as spiking your dopamine levels. Dopamine just happens to promote happiness and motivation. Are you sold yet?
Get prioritising. Schedule everything in your calendar or phone, even the little, inconsequential things. Especially those things. Remembering to pick up more milk is only a small thing, but the compounded weight of numerous obligations and need-to-do’s can add a surprising amount of mental strain.
By prioritising all the things you need to get done, even if it’s as simple as eating breakfast, you are unblocking your brain and streamlining activity. Reducing the amount of ‘what was I doing?’ moments lets you create more mental space and reduce stress.
Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your feelings and try to see them as something that you experience, rather than something that you are. For example, instead of being angry about something, you can be aware that you are experiencing feelings of anger about a certain situation. This can help ease the burdens of your emotions by keeping them at a distance.
Say no. Get into the practice of saying no to the things you don’t want to do. If you’re a lifelong people pleaser, this might feel intimidating or even terrifying. But stick with us. One study calls menopausal women the “sandwich generation”, as these women are often taking care of both their children and their parents whilst also working outside the home. In other words, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate, and there might not be enough of you to go around. Saying no and setting firm boundaries frees up crucial time for yourself. By saying no, what are you actually saying yes to?
Menopause is often a challenging time, and it can take a toll on your energy levels. Whether it’s night sweats preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, or underlying anxiety that’s weighing you down, the whole experience can leave you feeling exhausted, both mentally and physically. By taking a more holistic view, we hope these tips provide some exciting ways to boost your energy and get you back on track.
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