Tired of being tired? If you’re entering or in menopause, chances are you are experiencing menopause fatigue: a state of sluggishness and/or exhaustion. Feeling like you could doze off at any given moment is a downer on its own, but there’s another reason fatigue sucks so much: It keeps you from taking better care of yourself.
Menopause introduces a host of challenging symptoms, many of which can be managed with some simple self-care practices, including issues with sleep. When you’re exhausted all the time you’re less likely to keep a healthy routine — and you feel even worse.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way, especially if you educate yourself and get a little bit of support. Here’s what you need to know about lethargy during perimenopause and menopause.
Why am I feeling fatigued during menopause?
There are plenty of reasons to feel run down in midlife. We're running in a thousand different directions, multitasking, working at our jobs. Sometimes there's just aren't enough hours in the day. But when it comes to menopause, there's also a hormonal link.
During peri/menopause, our sex hormones are dwindling, which can indirectly affect our sleep (we see you, night sweats). Sleep is a time for your body to reset and restore itself, and if that doesn’t happen, it’s natural you’ll feel fatigued the next day. (And you might not feel 100 percent in general.) But there’s another, more direct cause: As estrogen and progesterone go down, the stress hormone cortisol tends to trend upward in many peri/menopausal folks, which can lead to late-night wake-ups — and, of course, crashing fatigue during the daytime.
How can I conquer fatigue?
There’s no silver bullet to cure lethargy — sometimes you just gotta wait for your hormones to level out — but don’t lose hope. A few expert-backed tips can keep you going. Here’s what to do if you’re exhausted all the time, according to the pros.Track your sleep: We all need sleep for restorative processes in the body, and not getting enough (in quality or duration) can impact your health as you age. Try tracking your sleep with a wearable device or diary, and then use that info to tweak your sleep hygiene so you can cut out what keeps you up and add in routines that help you drift off.
Cut out screens before bed: Blue light on electronic devices has been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythm, interfering with sleep quality and potentially contributing to daytime fatigue. Aim to cut out screen time at least two hours before bedtime. If you need something relaxing to do, read a book or magazine instead.
Cool it with the caffeine: If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, don’t be so quick to brew a second pot of coffee, says Susan D’Addario, a certified sleep science coach in New York City.
While caffeine may stimulate you in the moment, too much of it (especially late in the day) can throw off your sleep schedule even more and worsen your daytime fatigue. D’Addario suggests having a cup of green tea no later than 2 p.m. While green tea is caffeinated (hence the 2 p.m. caveat), it’s rich in antioxidants that can boost your overall health.Go outside: Sunlight plays a critical role in regulating circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep and time to wake up.
D’Addario says spending time outdoors in the morning light (before 8:30 a.m.) can help regulate circadian rhythm. Or go outside in the afternoon for 20-30 minutes if you’re feeling sleepy. Stuck inside? Try one of those fancy sunlamps instead, for the same amount of time. Try a desk-sized one if you’re fading at work.Watch what you eat: Simple carbs — sugar, in other words — might give you a boost in the moment, but your energy levels will only crash. Make sure to eat a breakfast and a lunch rich in complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, which provide your body with much-needed energy and prevent afternoon slump by keeping your blood sugar balanced. Hydration also plays a huge role in energy and mental clarity, so keep your water bottle on you and sip throughout the day.
Move your body: Working out regularly is a powerful way to reinforce healthy sleep (as long as you do it several hours before bedtime). D’Addario says working physical movement into your day can also up your energy level by boosting hormones that keep you alert. Whenever you’re tired, get up and dance to a few of your favorite songs, or go outside for a walk (two birds, one stone!). Take a power nap:
Feel like you need a nap? Take it. D’Addario says taking a 10- or 20-minute nap earlier in the day can boost our midday energy. Sinking into a two-hour nap may sound like bliss, but it can actually work against us long-term.
“Make sure the naps work for you and not against you by interfering in your nighttime sleep,” she says.
When to talk to your doctor
Many midlife health conditions can cause fatigue. If you can’t seem to rally in the morning for more than a few days or you’re feeling more exhausted than usual, make an appointment with your primary care provider to rule out a medical cause and discuss solutions.
Thyroid disorders and sleep apnea, for example, tend to become more of an issue for women in midlife. If you snore and feel exhausted the next day, see your primary care provider or a sleep specialist to make sure your breathing isn’t obstructed at night. Shifting hormones and life circumstances also become more common in midlife and can cause depression, of which fatigue is a symptom.
Treating fatigue might be as simple as doing one glorious cup of coffee in the morning and that’s it, or it may require a doctor-guided approach. Either way, this is a good time to really listen to your body and treat it right.