Sweating Less, Sleeping Better: How a Strong Circadian Rhythm Eases Menopause Symptoms
Have you ever felt like your body has its own internal clock? Well, it does, and it's called the circadian rhythm. This natural timer plays a part in many aspects of our lives, from when we feel sleepy to when we're most alert. But did you know it also has a connection to something as significant as menopause? There is a huge relationship between menopause symptoms and the circadian rhythm.
Menopause Symptoms: What's Happening?
The Menopause transition usually hits in the 40s or early 50s. It brings changes like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings for many women. These aren't just annoying; they can really change a woman's daily life and be a huge factor of stress.
Although not all women get disruptive symptoms in the West, many do. And yet, we now know through research that women in other countries, like the Okinawa, get little to no symptoms. Why? It looks like, due to a variety of diet and lifestyle factors, their bodies are likely able to compensate for the natural drop in hormones that occur around menopause and that results in fewer symptoms. One critical factor that influences whether this transition is smooth or rocky is the health of our circadian rhythm.
Our Body's Clock and Its Role
Deep in the centre of our brain is an area that knows what time of day or night it is. Our body clock, or circadian rhythm, does more than just tell us when to sleep or wake up. It actually controls hormones as well as our organs, letting our body know when an organ, hormone or system needs to be more active, or when it needs to be more quiet. If this clock or circadian rhythm is off, then all sorts of chaos starts happening and menopause symptoms worsen.
How It All Connects
This whole connection between menopause and our body clock is pretty complex. Changes in one area can affect the others, creating a tricky balance that can make menopause even more challenging and lead to heightened hormone symptoms.
Having our brain’s clock set properly is absolutely essential to hormone balance. If this clock is off then the signals to the different hormone glands as well as all our other organs and systems go out at the wrong time and this leads to chaos, which leads to worsening hormone symptoms.
What Can Be Done?
The good news is, that by understanding how all this works together, there are ways to calm menopause symptoms naturally. Simple things can make a big difference! Things like getting outside during the day so our body registers that it is daytime, to avoiding blue light from screens in the evening because it is the same spectrum as sunlight which confuses our body’s clock. Having a good wind-down routine helps a lot too along with getting in some movement in the morning to spike our daytime hormones. These simple strategies can make a huge difference to our circadian rhythm and therefore our hormone symptoms.
The link between menopause, and our body's natural rhythm is like an intricate dance that science is only beginning to understand. But the more we learn, the better we can help women through this big life change. So here's to embracing the dance and finding the rhythm that works best for each individual!
Cagnacci, A. et al. (2005). "Influence of menopause on melatonin and alertness rhythms investigated in a constant routine protocol." Neuroscience Letters, 380(3), 272-275.
Duffy, J.F., et al. (2015). "Circadian rhythm disorders and melatonin production in 127 insomnia patients with frequent nighttime awakening." Sleep Medicine, 16(3), 319-325.
Jehan S, Jean-Louis G, Zizi F, et al. Sleep, melatonin, and the menopausal transition: What are the links? Sleep Sci. 2017; 10(1): 11-18.