Women seem to be wired for fatigue. Being the primary care-giver, working at home and outside of the home, and being instinctively set-up for people-pleasing, the demands of a work week and family can leave a woman exhausted. It's little wonder that women are constantly trying to find a place to run away to - just to get some sleep.
What Makes Fatigue So Bad During Menopause?
For women who are in any stage of menopause, fatigue seems to be one of the most frequent complaints. Primarily, it seems the fatigue comes along with hormonal changes in the body that occur during menopause and the fatigue is exacerbated by lifestyle, diet, and stress. It starts out as a simple equation - the demands on the body are greater than the support it is getting. At first, a good night's sleep is enough to remedy the problem. A little exercise thrown in boosts energy and you're feeling better. However, it becomes chronic when you wake from a good night's sleep as tired as or more tired than when you went to bed.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Fatigue?
Symptoms build slowly over time and manifest in a number of different ways. Before menopause, they will come and go with the monthly menstrual cycle. During perimenopause and menopause, when cycles are erratic, fatigue can be a real issue. The symptoms of fatigue should be acknowledged and taken seriously - they include:
· Feelings of mental and/or physical exhaustion
· Being tired in the morning, even if the night's sleep was great
· Feelings of being overwhelmed or rundown
· Unable to bounce back after illness or a stress headache
· Joint pain
· Muscle soreness
· Having a case of the "blahs" or a depressed mood
· Confusion, irritability, poor short-term memory
· Lightheadedness or feeling spacey
· Strong craving for sweets or carbs
· Caffeine, sugar or alcohol dependence - especially in the afternoon or early evening
· A second-wind that comes in the evening
A woman in menopause will tell you that she's experienced most, if not all of these symptoms - and she may tell you she's been that way for years and years. And, maybe she has. What the problem may be is chronic fatigue that has just gotten worse with menopause.
How Do Hormones Figure In?
In menopause, the ovaries lose center stage as their function diminishes. Adequate levels of DHEA are important to keeping estrogen levels stable. Hormones are responsible for controlling energy at the cellular level, so when estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate a lot and when they decrease, feelings of fatigue and decreased energy accompany. On top of this, hormones play a big part in the sleep cycle - so getting a good night's rest can be a real challenge. Hormones can cause insomnia and keep a woman up through the night with hot flashes and night sweats.
The adrenals and thyroid are also complicit in this mix of hormones that affect energy. It's important to have thyroid and adrenal functions checked during menopause. A tweaking of their function may be just what is needed to bring energy levels back up.
What Can You Do?
There are a few things that can be done to address fatigue during menopause.
· Sleep. That sounds like a no-brainer, but for the menopausal woman it can be the challenge of a lifetime. Yet, a good night's sleep in a dark room can regulate hormonal output, even when it's as erratic as it can be during menopause. If sleep is elusive, there are herbal aids a woman can use to help with sleep. Remember that TV, ambient light in the bedroom, personal computers, uncomfortable beds and a rip-snortin' snorer can be sleep robbers as well.
· Emotions and Stress. Fatigue can often have an emotional component - whether it is stress from the daily life you're living, or stress and emotional angst from days gone by. It is important to discover the source of the stress and then do whatever you can to nullify its negative effects. Finding effective ways of dealing with subconscious energy loss resulting from feeding old thoughts can be the ticket to ending fatigue.
· Dietary Habits. We all know eating well is first on the list of proper care and feeding of a menopausal woman (or anyone else). Stress and fatigue can cause a mild-mannered woman to storm the fridge and cupboards, binge eating and carb stuffing. That's because the body is running on the stress hormone, cortisol. Discipline in eating well-balanced meals, beginning with breakfast, and not taking on starvation diets to lose weight will help with the fatigue issue.
· Hydration. Most women don't drink enough water. Coffee, tea, soda, alcohol - while liquid, do not qualify as hydrators. Dehydration can cause fatigue. Drink water - period.
· Nutritional Supplement. Sometimes eating enough of the right foods to ensure proper dietary balance is tough. Stress causes the body to respond to foods inappropriately sometimes, and when stress gets high in menopause, the body sloughs off nutrients. Taking a good supplement will help ensure that the body is getting enough to maintain some sort of balance while you walk the tightrope of menopause.