“Women going through menopause often experience insomnia. I have personally experienced a terrible change in my sleeping patterns. As a result, we often suffer depression, change of moods, chronic fatigue and food disorders.”
This insomnia is partially due to reduced levels of some hormones like estrogen and progesterone, both of which have sleep protective benefits. However, insomnia associated with menopause may be additionally influenced by reduced levels of melatonin that have been shown to decrease with age. I have researched and tested different ways to diminish these side effects.
As a yoga therapist, I approached insomnia by designing an evening program to balance through breathing exercises (pranayama) and a sequence of forward bending and inverted postures, to generate a “slow down” of the entire body and mind. It works, but we can always look for more, right? Then one day I was captured by something that I had heard of, but never really paid attention to: “The circadian rhythm”.
The term “circadian”, comes from the Latin “circa diem” and means “around the day” and was coined by Frank Halberg, an American scientist and biologist (1919-2013). All living organisms have one: us, animals, plants, etc, and it represents our adaptation relative to the day and night rhythms. This master circadian clock consists of a group of neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus, which helps our body coordinate functions based on the time of day.
Circadian rhythms are daily cycles, influencing critical body functions such as hormone release, temperature, eating habit, digestion, mood, and sleep. So, in an effort to try and regulate and respect my circadian rhythm, I added to my daily routines, a few simple tricks. They have gradually made a change to my health and my state of mind. I’m more “awake” in the morning and more “sleepy” at night.
Obviously in conjunction with regular exercises, yoga, pranayama, and definitely not going to bed with a full belly, my overall quality of sleep has improved massively. Ihope you will benefit and enjoy this new routine in your life. 3 tips for managing cortisol and melatonin rhythms:
- Viewing the morning sunrise, ideally before 8am, for 2-10 minutes is the best way to time cortisol release as the brain thinks “It’s bright outside, so I’m awake”.
- Viewing the sunset for 2-10 minutes preps the pathway for melatonin, to induce sleep 4 hours later.
- Avoid viewing bright light after sunset, instead, use amber light around the house. That includes the artificial blue light emanating from your phone and TVs which is completely disruptive to a quality night of rest, especially between 11pm and 4 am. So aim to limit technology use after dark and especially 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
Get outside and look up in the sky, but avoid looking at the Sun !