Specific Foods Can Help Menopausal Women Get to Sleep

Patient Expert

Having trouble sleeping? It turns out that many women do as they go through the menopausal transition. "Generally, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep and as many as 61 percent report insomnia symptoms," the National Sleep Foundation states.

Snooze Foods

Because of this, I was really interested in an article in USA Weekend that suggests that foods can help you get to sleep. The article quoted Recipe Rehab expert Danny Boone as suggesting that salmon, chickpeas and yogurt can help people with insomnia go to sleep due to the foods' various nutrients.

This topic also is covered on the Doctor Oz website, on which Inner Source Health Directors Pina LoGiudice and Peter Bongiorno point out that food actually plays an important role in the quality of your sleep. "Some insomnia sufferers wake at night because their blood sugar drops too low," they reported. "Adequate protein and healthy fat intake can help stabilize blood sugar through the night, and allow the liver to let out stored sugar molecules as needed for a good night's sleep. Foods can also support the healthy production of brain neurotransmitters and create calming results in the body."

Their recommendations include the following:

  • Montmorency tart cherries, which are a form of sour cherry, which have six times the amount of melatonin as compared to a regular cherry. A cherry juice concentrate also will have high levels of melatonin. Melatonin helps the body maintain its daily rhythms, thus helping you fall asleep easier.
  • Pumpkin seeds as well as the powder from the seeds have large amounts of tryptophan, which is an amino acid used by the body to make serotonin, which helps with relaxation. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin. LoGiudice and Bongiorno recommend taking about one cup of seeds or a half-cup of the pumpkin seed powder with a healthy carbohydrate, which will help a larger amount of tryptophan reach the brain.
  • Pulque, which is a milk-colored alcoholic beverage from Mexico that's made of fermented sap of a type of agave, is high in melatonin as well. The melatonin content as well as its alcoholic content helps to relax you in order to prepare for sleep on an occasional basis.
  • Scottish oatmeal is a cereal grain made from an herb known as Avena sativa, which is known for its calming properties. Additionally, oats have melatonin and complex carbohydrates, which aid the brain in accessing more tryptophan. Furthermore, this food contains vitamin B6, which helps generate more serotonin in the brain.
  • Dandelions help balance blood sugar by cleansing the liver. LoGiudice and Bongiorno point out that changes in blood sugar play a major role in insomnia. Additionally hormonal issues related to the menopausal transition can make getting a good night's sleep difficult. The nutrients in the dandelion strengthen the function of the blood, fluids and hormonal balance. The pair recommends preparing dandelions by steaming or blanching them and then sautéing them with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Dr. Mark Hyman recommends magnesium, which he describes as the most powerful relaxation mineral available. This mineral is responsible for more than 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all tissues, but especially the bones, muscles and brain. Foods that have high levels of magnesium include kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens and garlic. Also, avoid coffee, colas, salt, sugar and alcohol, which drain the body of magnesium.

The Mayo Clinic's Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler also offers some do's and don'ts that can help you sleep. The first is to eat a small snack (a bowl of oatmeal, cereal with low-fat milk or yogurt with granola) a few hours before bedtime. He also suggests avoiding large, high-fat meals late in the day as well as those that are garlic-flavored and highly spiced since they can cause heartburn or make you uncomfortable. Dr. Morgenthaler also recommended avoiding alcohol and caffeine, noting that it can take as much as eight hours for the effects of caffeine to diminish. Also, don't drink too much liquid prior to bed since it may cause you to wake up often to use the bathroom.

If you are having sleep issues, try to incorporate some of these foods (and tips) into your lifestyle. You just might find yourself happily drifting off (and staying) in dreamland

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Hyman, M. (2010). Magnesium: Meet the most powerful relaxation mineral available.

LoGiudice, P. & Bongiorno, P. (2012). What to eat for deep sleep.

Morgenthaler, T. (2011). Will a bedtime snack help me sleep better?

National Sleep Foundation. (nd.). Menopause and sleep.