The Psychological Impact of the Menopause

Menopause is a difficult time, not just because of the physical symptoms but also because of the impact it can have on your mental health

There are a couple of major assumptions that mislead many people when it comes to discussing the menopause: first, that it occurs in one stage and second, that the most commonly reported problems suffered are hot flushes, itchy skin, loss of libido and night sweats. In fact, these symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg, as they may be experienced alongside at least 30 more, all of which are individually and equally challenging, commonly being suffered over many years.

Surprisingly though, some of the most debilitating long-term effects are those listed below and these are what contribute to the major psychological impact the perimenopause invariably has. Bearing in mind, that as sufferers are generally exhausted, falling asleep in the first instance is not an issue, but having longlasting, restful sleep is another matter entirely:

• Sleep disturbances that occur after you have initially gone to sleep can have an insidious effect on your wellbeing and mental state

• Bouts of unexpected anxiety for no apparent reason can be heightened greatly by underlying exhaustion caused by disturbed sleep

• Difficulty in concentrating on normal daily tasks is explained by lack of proper sleep

• Absent-mindedness or forgetfulness falls into the same bracket

• Unexplained mood swings are caused through the stealthy build-up of sleep deprivation

• Regular and debilitating feelings of total exhaustion will get worse if this fundamental issue is not addressed

All of the above are inter-related because poor sleep quality can amplify any of the symptoms listed, as good sleep and anxiety avoidance are key to dealing with them. Most women will experience disturbed sleep as a perimenopausal symptom, which almost always has the knock-on effect on mood and energy levels, causing high levels of distress. In addition, long-term poor sleep patterns can even lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, the latter of which heaps more socially stressful feelings of hopelessness.

Some tips to ensure a good night’s rest when suffering effects of perimenopause are to:

• Sleep in a dark room

• Remove televisions, radios and computers from bedroom

• Sleep in a room with a comfortable room temperature

• Maintain regular sleep hours

In reality though, whilst the above pointers are helpful, it is not generally possible to conquer sleep problems with these tips alone. Tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid our bodies only get from natural food sources, when taken at night, turns into serotonin, which then metabolises into melatonin, a hormone that activates the brain’s sleep mechanisms. So, although it won’t cause drowsiness and put you to sleep it will promote restfulness and help you stay asleep longer. Conversely, when taken during the day, tryptophan becomes serotonin, that doesn’t metabolise, which regulates mood, emotion, and appetite, and is well known to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Other purported benefits of ingesting a natural source of tryptophan include easing chronic pain symptoms, weight loss and increased libido. But how do you get access to this essential amino acid?

The BBC’s natural health guru and Janey Lee Grace has discussed alternatives to HRT including a natural-source tryptophan product than can have a beneficial effect such as those mentioned above. There is also a newly-published e-book on the subject Feel Great Day & Night: A Natural Approach to Treating Insomnia – Menopause Edition by Dr Craig Hudson MD, FRCP(C) and Susan Hudson MSW focuses on sleep-related menopause problems and can in fact be obtained free by visiting this link. In addition, it is known to be beneficial to take a daily multivitamin that contains Vitamins B6 and B12, which help to maintain a healthy nervous system and contribute to normal energy production, while helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue is a sound idea. Vitamin B6 also contributes to normal hormonal function. Look out for products such as a Vitamin B Multi-Complex that does not contain added sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, colourings or preservatives. If they are suitable for vegetarians or vegans, even better!

Article courtesy of Bill Archer, editor of the UK Menopause edition of Feel Great Day and Night and author of Prescription Medications: The road to even more suffering? Natures Naturals are a UK manufacturer of natural health products, intended to help improve quality of life for those suffering various types of pain, issues with menopause, topical applications for dry skin conditions, meeting the challenges of allergies, asthma and respiratory problems, plus practitioner-strength specialist nutrition. Visit their website for more details:

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