Health

Menopause Fatigue — What Causes It and 4 Ways to Deal

Tired all the time? Here's what can help.

Menopause fatigue is one of the many frustrating symptoms we can experience once it comes time for “the change.” On top of all the other physical things you’re going through, feeling tired all the time when you’re trying to go about your life can be really taxing. If you’re sluggish and just don’t feel like yourself, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are simple changes you can make that can help you gain your energy back.

What causes menopause fatigue?

Many women in this stage of life experience menopause fatigue. Fatigue is just a fancy word for extreme tiredness that is constant (for instance, not just triggered by one sleepless night) and significantly affects your ability to go through your normal day-to-day activities. According to many women’s health experts, menopause fatigue can occur for a lot of different reasons.

First, always talk to your doctor about any new symptoms you’re experiencing. Extreme fatigue is common in menopause, especially at the onset, but it’s also a symptom for other more serious conditions like thyroid disorders, kidney and liver disease, heart problems.

If your doctor indicates that it’s just the onset of menopause causing you to feel tired, there are a few reasons behind it. As menopause begins (and even before), your body goes through rapid hormonal changes. During the perimenopausal period (which usually starts in your 40s, and can last between four and 12 years), levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen start to decline, leading to irregular periods that are either lighter or heavier.

You’re considered to have entered menopause once you haven’t had your period for at least 12 months. When this happens, estrogen and progesterone levels decline even more rapidly while thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones also fluctuate.

Since all of these hormonal systems regulate our cellular energy, it makes sense that the sudden changes can leave us feeling drained. These shifts are also responsible for other menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness.

Other factors like weight gain, dehydration, and increased stress may also be triggered by menopause, causing you to feel tired. Luckily, there are some key lifestyle changes that can help you regain your energy. Check them out below.

4 Ways to Fight Menopause Fatigue

Move your body.

Getting exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re fatigued, but research shows that moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking or yoga can actually help boost energy levels in menopausal women. Other studies also suggest that exercise can help manage symptoms like insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, and chronic pain.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of movement a day. Try to find physical activities that you find enjoyable, as you don’t want to cause extra stress (the stress hormone cortisol isn’t a friend of menopause!). Which brings us to our next point…

Reduce stress.

As best you can, try to reduce the stress that you’re carrying. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is a natural occurrence during menopause, can rob you of your energy and lead to disrupted sleep patterns. However, simple practices like deep breathing and meditation have been shown to lower cortisol levels, as well improve mental health and sleep! For a simple cortisol-reducing exercise, take a break each hour to simply breathe five deep breaths into your belly. Count your inhales for four seconds and your exhales for six. And try this mindfulness meditation practice before bed to help you catch those z’s!

Have a healthy routine for sleep.

If you’re not sleeping well, you’re obviously more likely to struggle with staying energized throughout the day. Setting yourself up for a restful night requires good sleep hygiene. First of all, try to wake up and go to bed at the same times each day. This helps train your body to know when it’s time to rest. Reduce your screen time at night, trying to avoid use of your devices one hour before hitting the hay — blue light exposure from screens can literally trick your brain into staying up! And lastly, keep your thermostat set low to reduce night sweats. The Sleep Foundation suggests a temp of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eat (and drink) smart.

Having a healthy diet at the onset of menopause is extremely important if you’re trying to manage symptoms like fatigue — beginning, most importantly, with water.

Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue because when your cells are dehydrated, they have to work harder to function properly. Research shows that as women age, our bodies don’t retain water as well because of the drop in estrogen, which usually allows our tissues to absorb and hold onto moisture. When we’re younger, we are made up of 60 to 70 percent water, but after menopause, women may be only 55 percent water — a big drop! That being said, make sure you’re replenishing your body with lots of water throughout the day.

Limiting your consumption of alcohol may also be helpful if you’re trying to reduce fatigue. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it actually disrupts your sleep cycle in such a way that the sleep you’re getting isn’t as deep and restful. Not only that, but alcohol consumption has also been linked with daytime sleepiness (even in moderate amounts), so try and reduce your intake.

And lastly, keeping your meals small and frequent throughout the day may help you better manage your energy levels — and your weight. Rather than eating three large meals, try eating five to six smaller ones a few hours apart. Experts at Harvard Health suggest that this will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced, providing you with more energy. Favor natural, whole-foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and protein which will provide your brain and body with the nutrients it needs to feel good.

There you have it. Simple changes can go a long way when it comes to managing the fatigue that comes along with menopause. And as always, remember that this is a delicate time in your life filled with changes, so try your best to be patient as you make small shifts to figure it all out along the way.

We’re wishing you a graceful, healthy transition.

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