Better Sleep During Perimenopause & Menopause

October 11, 2019

More than 60% of women experience sleep problems during perimenopause and menopause. Listen in to find out how what food you eat and supplements you take can help you get a better night’s sleep.

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CASSIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. This show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Our regular listeners probably remember that last week on this program, Dar and Marcie interviewed James Templeton on how he used nutrition to put stage four cancer into remission; and he's been in remission now for over 30 years.

JOANN: That's amazing.

CASSIE: It's amazing. I didn't get to listen to it live, but I went back and listened to it on a podcast on iTunes on my phone, and that was just such a powerful show.

JOANN: It was great.

CASSIE: And today that voice you hear is Joann. Joann and I are going to have another great show for you. We're going to be talking about how you can use nutrition to get better sleep during those perimenopause and menopause years.

JOANN: That's right. And next week Carolyn and Melanie are going to discuss how real food and nutrition can help reduce the risk of getting breast cancer. So that's going to be a very important show as well. On the last Saturday of October, Kara and Teresa will share how real food and nutrition can help you avoid type-two diabetes and weight gain. So there’s a common theme.

CASSIE: Yeah, right. And I mean I know that the longtime listeners know this, but if you're new to the program, just listening to those topics we have here on Dishing Up Nutrition throughout the month of October, you can tell that nutrition affects every aspect of your health and well-being. And in all of our nutrition classes and here on Dishing Up Nutrition, we try to share this life changing information in a way that everyone can understand. One of our main goals is to empower you with the knowledge so you can make the right changes so that you can apply this knowledge in a good way to your eating and lifestyle habits.

Nutrition Classes

JOANN: That's right. So I'm Joann Ridout and I've been a registered dietitian for over 30 years. And I've also struggled with sleep problems for many, many of those years. So I really understand what you're going through and especially on those nights when you wake up around two or three in the morning, you can't get back to sleep or you might be just laying there; restless sleep; just dozing, but not really sleeping until 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning. That's so frustrating. And then your alarm goes off.

CASSIE: That is very frustrating. I can relate to that as well. My name is Cassie Weness. I'm also a registered dietitian and I've been interested in helping both women and men solve their sleep problems probably for the last 12 and a half years because it was 12 and a half years ago that I came on board with Nutritional Weight & Wellness. And when I started here I was really struggling with my sleep. I'm sure I could have been classified as having insomnia. And it wasn't until I started here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness that I learned there's a connection between the food I was eating and the terrible night's sleep I was getting. So once the owner of Nutritional Weight & Wellness, Darlene Kvist, helped me to connect those dots and overcome my sleep problems, I wanted to turn around and help other people as well.

But getting back to the specific topic today of better sleep during the menopause and perimenopause years, you know, as you're well aware, Joann, we get our radio show topic about a month before we're going to go on air. So we know plenty of, you know, plenty of weeks in advance what we're going to be talking about. And so knowing that this show is coming up, I've been chatting here and there with friends and had a couple of conversations with my mom about this topic. And, well one thing I found out is that the women in my life anyway, a lot of them don't really understand what goes on during perimenopause and menopause, at least not from the inside out. But a lot of them were struggling with sleep that are going through this time or have already gone through this time. So they know that piece of the puzzle, which I guess isn't surprising because the statistics tell us that more than 60% of women experience sleep problems during this time of their life. But again, besides that sleep piece, the people I talked to weren't really aware of what's happening to your body during perimenopause and menopause. I guess it's not common knowledge to everyone, but at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we know this so well that we tend to think it's common knowledge. Now probably there are some listeners that have taken our Menopause Survival Seminar, so they might be in the know as well. But for many of you, you probably have some points to learn and we're going to be here to educate today.

Surviving menopause with bedtime snacks


JOANN: So, and I bet many of those women you talk to also don't know that to sleep better or to sleep through the night, one of the best things you can do is eat a little bit of fruit with some healthy fat to stabilize your blood sugar level. So something like a half a piece of fruit along with one or two tablespoons of cream cheese or almond butter or heavy cream. That is very helpful. And it's a very small amount of food. It's not like we're loading you down with a lot of big snack.

CASSIE: No.  It’s just a little something…

JOANN: No, it's a very small…

CASSIE: And even if you're not hungry, from experience, eat it; because it does help.

JOANN: It does. And so do you remember those old recommendations that health professionals are telling people such as don't eat anything after 7:00 PM?

CASSIE: Well, you know Joann, when Oprah said that, and I love Oprah, but she said that a decade or so back on her show. And then I think it really took hold. Don't eat after six or seven o'clock. That's false information.

JOANN: Well, and it does depend on the person, but you know, you certainly need to experiment with adding a snack because it really can be helpful.

CASSIE: Good point.

JOANN: Or what about the years where we added one bowl of air popped popcorn? That was all the rage. That just spiked your blood sugar. That wakes you up at 3:00 AM. So the best way to get a good night's sleep is to eat that balanced snack at bedtime. And that could mean a half a cup of berries with some good fat like heavy whipping cream or full-fat coconut milk. Or perhaps your snack of choice is apple slices with two tablespoons of peanut butter or 16 almonds; just lots of different options; but just a small serving of fruit; small serving of a healthy fat.

CASSIE: Yes. That balanced bedtime snack is key. And hearing you mention the air popped popcorn, Joann: that really took me back. I had forgotten that before I found Nutritional Weight & Wellness, almost every night, my bedtime snack was a bowl of popcorn.


CASSIE: You know, and I was a registered dietitian then too, you know.

JOANN: Me too.

CASSIE: Right. And you, probably like me, we used to think that was healthy. It was low-fat. And back then that's what I was being taught was low-fat and it had fiber. So in my head, why wouldn't this be a good bedtime snack? Well, I started at Nutritional Weight and Wellness and one of the first things that Darlene Kvist taught me when I sat down with her and I said, you know, “I'm really having trouble sleeping.” And she asked what I was eating at night and I told her, and she said, “Well first you have to quit the popcorn.”


CASSIE: And she went on to explain it has, it's a food with one of the worst glycemic indexes. And if that's a term some people don't know, glycemic index in a nutshell means how high and how fast that food spikes your blood sugar. And popcorn spikes it high and fast. And so what would happen is I'd lay down to go to sleep after that popcorn being exhausted on the outside, but on the inside, unbeknownst to me, I was all revved up from the sugar that that popcorn turned into, right?

JOANN: Yeah.

CASSIE: Then when I'd finally fall asleep after an hour or two, I'd only sleep for a couple hours and my eyes would pop open again. You and I know the science, right? What goes up must come down so that blood sugar would spike.

JOANN: And then fall.

CASSIE: Then by 3:00 AM it had plummeted and my eyes popped open. So that was a huge piece of the puzzle for me was getting the popcorn out and doing something like a half of an apple with a little almond butter on each slice.

JOANN: Right.

CASSIE: Like you mentioned. So I just wanted to stress that importance of, or the importance of that bedtime snack. And the next thing, you know, if you get that bedtime snack established and you're doing a little fruit and a little healthy fat like we mentioned and you're still not sleeping your best, then you might want to consider taking a magnesium supplement.

As I was talking to friends and talking to my mom about the topic coming up, I found not a lot of people are aware of magnesium and how it can help with sleep. Of course my mother is because she's my mother and I tell her all this stuff. So my mom takes 400 milligrams at bedtime and that's what I have found in clinical practice to be the lowest therapeutic starting dose. So I would recommend that for anyone out there that wants to try it. It's a very safe place to start: 400 milligrams. Magnesium Glycinate is what you want to look for. That glycinate is really important because it's the most highly absorbable form. You know, and before we have to go to break here, I just want to say I would call magnesium about as close as you can get to just an all around get healthy, get sleeping, type of a supplement because magnesium is important for a lot of other things besides just sleep. And know too that magnesium deficiency is common. About half of adults in this country are deficient in magnesium and I want to talk a little bit more about that when we get back from break.

If you're just joining us, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. This show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. If you are listening and you are having problems sleeping, please stay tuned because we will be sharing a lot more sleep solutions throughout the hour. We know a lack of sleep can certainly zap your energy and that's annoying, but did you know a chronic lack of sleep can cause weight gain? It can cause memory problems. It can cause low mood and irritability. Getting adequate sleep is critical for your overall health and your well-being. And don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.


JOANN: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we are discussing how women can get better sleep during perimenopause and menopause. And lack of sleep and how to get adequate sleep is one of the topics we cover in depth in our November 9 Menopause Survival Seminar. So that's coming up pretty soon.

Menopause Survival Seminar

CASSIE: That's what I was just thinking: scary.

JOANN: Yeah, and this is a sixth time I've had the pleasure of teaching this seminar. And I'm always surprised to learn how so many women do not know much about menopause or how to survive menopause gracefully. That's the best way to think about it: surviving gracefully.

CASSIE: I love that word: gracefully.

JOANN: Or the fact that they truly can feel great. It's important to be educated and to know what to expect. So please join us on Saturday, November 9 at our St. Paul location. And you can call 651-699-3438 to save your place or go to to learn more.

CASSIE: And bring a girlfriend.


CASSIE: It's a learning experience, but it's so fun. We throw in some humor but you learn a lot. And it just feels like a safe place where you can ask any and all questions.

JOANN: Exactly.

CASSIE: Yeah. It's a great day.

JOANN: That's great.

CASSIE: So when we were going to break… Oh yeah, so I was talking about how magnesium deficiency is common in the United States. Over half of adults, both men and women, have a magnesium deficiency. Now if we take out of that population elderly women in particular, then that risk of magnesium deficiency gets even higher; so something to think about. And you know, low magnesium can very easily equal sleepless nights. Another common symptom of a magnesium deficiency is leg cramps.

JOANN: Yeah. I used to struggle with eye twitches.


JOANN: And I did have leg cramps as well, but eye twitches at night, and I remember sitting in front of my computer thinking, “Oh, this is eyestrain. I'm just tired.” All kinds of things; but it was magnesium.

CASSIE: It was just magnesium.

JOANN: Yeah.

CASSIE: Amazing; simple solution.

Low magnesium can equal sleepless nights


JOANN: So I have found when I keep my magnesium level in a healthy range, my sleep is so much better and so much deeper. And in an addition to better sleep, magnesium helps to stabilize moods. So it helps if you have a little anxiety here and there during the day. It's critical to build strong bones. And my favorite reason to take magnesium glycinate is that it helps eliminate those muscle cramps and Charlie horses I used to get in the night.

CASSIE: That can wake you up in the night. Yes. That happened to me when I was pregnant. That was the first time. And then I started taking magnesium and for me overnight they went away.

JOANN: That's great. So it also helps to, for younger women or teens, it helps to reduce menstrual cramps. And it's also recommended to take, maybe for headaches. Some people find it very helpful for constipation; lots of reasons. And I remember working with a client who was getting migraines on a regular basis and she always knew about a day before the migraine was going to hit her hard; and sometimes she could stave off that migraine or at least minimize the migraine if she started taking magnesium soon enough.

CASSIE: There is a reason why we call it the magic mineral.

JOANN: Exactly.

CASSIE: Yes, yes. And in fact, when you look at the science of it, magnesium is involved in over 350 different chemical reactions that take place in our body every day to keep us healthy. So you can imagine that over time if you become deficient and now these chemical reactions aren't taking place like they were supposed to, a lot of things can start to go awry. So yeah, the magic mineral, and I have another statistic to share. During perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, the National Sleep Foundation has reported that about 61% of females have sleep problems. And these women also often have hot flashes, night sweats, sometimes sleep apnea and sometimes other sleep breathing disorders. So consider magnesium no matter what period you're at in the life cycle. Really, I mean, it doesn't have to be perimenopause and menopause. Like I mentioned, I started magnesium back when I was pregnant and started getting those Charlie horses in the middle of the night. But I think we should keep moving here. What else, Joann, besides a balanced bedtime snack and magnesium could help women during this time in their life?

Melatonin declines during menopause


JOANN: So I think it's really important for most women to realize that during perimenopause, whether it's those five to 10 years before menopause, there is a shift in hormones going on. And most of them understand this shift is in estrogen and progesterone levels. But the hormone, melatonin, is another hormone that is lower among women as they get older. So women over 50, as compared to younger women do have less melatonin.

CASSIE: I was hoping you'd bring up melatonin. So let's talk about this hormone a little more in depth. First, I'll say that as I was visiting with friends and my mom, you know, in the weeks leading up to this show, I found that most people have heard of melatonin for sleep. I think probably the commercials and things do a good job of that. But not many of my friends had tried melatonin, either just because, or some of them said they didn't think it was safe, which I found interesting. Now my mom on the other hand swears by it. My mom takes melatonin every night. So it's interesting. I didn't know that after the age of 50 our melatonin levels generally start to decrease. That is interesting. And again, melatonin is a hormone. Like Joann mentioned, it regulates our sleep/wake cycle. And for those of you that like a little bit of biochemistry, melatonin gets produced primarily by our pineal gland. And if you don't know where that is, it's found just above the middle of our brain. And it's really tiny. It's about the size of a pea. And again, this is where most of our melatonin is produced and melatonin helps us basically know when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up.

JOANN: Right. And your body can make melatonin or you can take melatonin supplements for sleep if you know your body's just not making enough. So whether melatonin is produced by your body or whether it's ingested as a supplement, it helps improve sleep by helping your body better regulate your sleeping and waking up cycle. So melatonin can shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep, can improve the quality of your sleep through the night. And we believe if you're struggling to get to sleep, we recommend taking a sublingual melatonin. That means that you put this melatonin under your tongue, so it gets absorbed quickly and within 20 minutes you should be asleep. So many people take three to five milligrams of melatonin and the sublingual generally works better. But I've had clients come in and they're, they're swallowing a pill of three to five milligrams of melatonin and your body has trouble absorbing that if your gut isn't very healthy.

CASSIE: And a lot of us…

JOANN: That’s so common.

CASSIE: Yeah. A lot of us need repair in terms of our gut health. So I like that you're stressing this sublingual form because yeah, if you can imagine you put that under your tongue and we have little blood vessels under there, it gets absorbed right in your bloodstream. So you bypass your digestive system and it just gets into your system quicker. Even if you do have a healthy intestinal tract, sublingual is going to get into your system quicker so you fall asleep faster.

We have to head to another commercial. Before we do that, I just want to remind you that you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and I want to share a little food for thought with you before we go to commercial. In the United States, perimenopause and menopause affects about 27 million women at work every day. And I think of it as a silent effect because the people around them probably aren't noticing it, but these women are struggling. At least 20% of the female workforce is not rested. They’re battling headaches. They're having hot flashes or they're feeling achy and emotional. The goal of our show today is to give women some simple nutritional solutions to help them overcome their sleep problems, especially during perimenopause and menopause years. For those of you who are looking for effective sleep aids, I just want to let you know that all of the supplements that Joann and I are talking about today can be found online and can be purchased online if you so choose at Just click on supplements once you get there or you can walk into any one of our seven Nutritional Weight and Wellness locations here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. And don't go anywhere because we'll be back on the other side of this break.


JOANN: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you are experiencing any perimenopause or menopause symptoms at all, please join Diane, who is a registered nurse, and Dar, who is the founder of Nutritional Weight & Wellness and Dishing Up Nutrition, who we all agree is… she says she's never going to retire.

CASSIE: Why would you, when you love what you do?

JOANN: She loves what she does. We love working with her. So why would she retire?

CASSIE: We don't want her to.

JOANN: So we will be sharing. I'm also a part of that group: November 9 Menopause Survival Seminar. If you have questions or a problem, we have an answer. So come spend the day with us learning and laughing. We will be talking about healing foods and some of the supplements that we've mentioned today and more. I can assure you you will not be disappointed. So sign up online at or call 651-699-3438 to reserve your spot.

Menopause Survival Seminar

CASSIE: Alright. We actually had a caller that didn't stay on the line but had a question about magnesium and I believe, Joann, she couldn't swallow pills so she wanted to know if there was another way to get magnesium. And the answer is yes. We have a couple of ways. We have a Liquid Magnesium Glycinate that I really love the flavor of. It's like apple pomegranate or apple something. And I don't remember the dosing on that but it tells you on the bottle. It's a couple of teaspoons or a tablespoon. So that's one option.

And then we also have something called Magnesium Calm and that's a powder and you just mix it with water. It can be really nice this time of year because it actually suggests warm water. So it's almost like sipping this fizzy tea. And there is a flavor to that too. It’s like lemon-lime or something?

JOANN: Raspberry-lemon. And my granddaughter will…

CASSIE: And she likes it. Well, wonderful. And I was mentioning to Joann during the break or reminding Joann that, you know, we talk about there’s such a high percentage of adults that have a magnesium deficiency, but when you look at kids in the United States, the percentage is even higher. So it wouldn't be uncommon that you might need to give your, your children something too. And kids usually have trouble swallowing. So that's a great source for a kid or an adult that doesn't want to swallow pills. And again, both of those products you can find on our website and there's a search engine so you can type in magnesium or you can walk into any one of our seven office locations here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

So before we went to break… Oh I know, Joann, you were mentioning and I love that you stressed a sublingual melatonin: quick absorption, especially if you don't have good intestinal health, you bypass the intestinal tract. Now, a follow up to that is, well how much? And I'm sure some people are wondering that. How much are you talking about? You know, I've seen people need as little as three milligrams and I've seen a lot of adults take 10 milligrams. And I've seen adults take more than that, but I feel like that three milligram to 10 milligram range is a really safe place for any of you listeners to experiment with.

JOANN: Most common.

CASSIE: Right? Wouldn't you agree? Now if you get up to 10 milligrams and it's not working, personally, then I would suggest that you make an appointment with a registered dietitian or a licensed nutritionist because maybe there's something else going on besides just the melatonin that we need to look at. But you know, I want to stress what Joann said, that you put that sublingual tablet under your tongue and within 10 or 20 minutes you're asleep. Well, right there, if you can get to sleep faster, you've increased your sleep time.

JOANN: Right.

CASSIE: And here too, just like the liquid magnesium and the powder magnesium I was talking about; these melatonins that I'm talking about, they come in different, quantities. We have a one milligram tablet and a five milligram tablet. They can be found on our website at or you can walk into any one of our seven office locations.

I also want to mention, I find this really fascinating. Another important factor of melatonin is that it has strong antioxidant properties. Now, if you're not familiar with that word, antioxidant, that simply means it's something that protects us. With melatonin they have found it to be specifically protective against cell damage in our brain. So think about that. It could help maintain a good working memory, you know, well down the road for any of you listening. And know too that the research shows if women lack sleep, now, what does that mean: lack sleep? Well, we're talking about less than about seven and a half to eight hours on most nights of the week. If you're not getting that, you have a higher risk of cognitive decline. And also with a deficiency of melatonin, there's been shown to be a higher risk of memory problems.

JOANN: Yeah, and when you talk about seven and a half to eight hours, I know nutritionally when I'm meeting with clients, there's a lot of people that aren't sleeping seven and a half. That sleep is a big topic and many people are only sleeping four to six hours.

CASSIE: And they don't realize that that's a big piece of the puzzle to heal whatever they're...

JOANN: And lots of people say, “Well that's my normal.” Well it's not a healthy normal, right?

CASSIE: Right.

JOANN: So I've recently been working with a client to help her improve her sleep. And I had this person take seven milligrams of melatonin and 600 milligrams of magnesium glycinate. That was, she actually worked up gradually to those numbers to kind of figure out where, where it worked best. And once she got to that level, she went from sleeping four to five hours a night to eight and a half to nine hours. And she said after a few weeks, “My memory is improved so much. I'm not struggling with word recall all the time and I was actually starting to worry about that.”

CASSIE: That is wonderful.

JOANN: So that’s pretty amazing.

CASSIE: I bet she feels like she can conquer the world.

JOANN: Oh yeah.

CASSIE: And she probably didn't even realize the energy that she was missing out on because I'm sure for a long time she was only getting four to five hours so... We can help you with your sleep.


Nutrition is the key to a better night's sleep


CASSIE: You know, we are talking about a lot of supplements right now, so I just want to back up a bit and remind listeners that you have to have the food piece down first: real food in balance. All the best supplements in the world are not going to help you like they should unless you're eating well.

And that just reminds me right now of a story. I hope this friend of mine does not mind me saying her name and telling it because I just thought of it. But our fellow nutrition educator, Oralee, who, you know, Joann; this was years ago. She had come to observe me teach a class because she was going to be teaching it. And so part of her training was to observe somebody that had taught it several times, and I don't remember what the class was, but it was a community ed. class. So it was in the evening. And I remember her helping me pack up and, and load my car at the end of the night. And as we were packing up, I asked her how the Nutrition 4 Weight Loss series was going because at that time we were just developing it. And so she was training to teach it and implementing every part of what we are teaching in that. And so I said, “Yeah, how's that Nutrition for Weight Loss series going Oralee?” And at first she kind of hung her head and she said, “Oh, I haven't reached my weight loss goal yet.” And then all of a sudden she perked up and she lifted her head and smiled at me and she said, “But I am sleeping like a baby.” And I said, “Really? Why do you suppose that is?” And she said, “Well, I know why it is. It's because I am following the Nutrition for Weight Loss format of eating protein, healthy carb, healthy fat; those three things every three hours.” So I wanted to tell that because we talked about the bedtime snack and that's important, but you really want to be eating balanced food: protein, carb, healthy fat every three hours all throughout the day to get into that deep stage of sleep.

JOANN: Exactly.

CASSIE: So food first, but we did talk about magnesium. That helps a lot of people get that best night's sleep. We just got done talking about melatonin. Both of these can really improve, not just quantity of sleep, but quality of sleep as well. But let me ask you this. Are you somebody that lays down in bed and you start worrying about every little thing? Or maybe your mind starts planning the next day in great detail as soon as your head hits the pillow. If this is you, you're probably going to benefit from adding a 5-HTP supplement. This can sort of shut off that brain chatter. 5-HTP has also been shown to boost moods. So if you're struggling with some low moods, it can be helpful. And some women report having, and men report having fewer carbohydrate cravings when they take 5-HTP. And if you're wondering what the HTP stands for, it stands for hydroxytryptophan, but we always call it 5-HTP. And it's really safe. It's made naturally in our own body when we're eating plenty of animal protein. What happens is when we break down, say the scrambled eggs that you're having for breakfast; that would be an animal protein. When you break it down in your intestinal tract to its very smallest building blocks, one of those building blocks is an amino acid called L-tryptophan. And Joann, why don't you explain what we convert L-tryptophan to?

JOANN: Right. L-tryptophan turns to 5-HTP. And then eventually produces serotonin.

CASSIE: There's the magic.

JOANN: Very helpful. So why is 5-HTP so helpful to calm anxiety? Maybe we call it worry. Maybe we call it brain chatter. And that helps the body produce more serotonin. That's a neurotransmitter regulating moods and the sleep/wake cycle. And we're running out of time. So we're going to come back to 5-HTP and that serotonin production when we get back from break.

CASSIE: And I can't believe this is our final commercial break. Before we go to break both Joann and I want to thank you for joining us on Dishing Up Nutrition today. And as I often do, I'm going to pose a question before we leave you for a minute here. Have you ever experienced true insomnia? One in four women in this country report insomnia symptoms like trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep or both. Now if insomnia is infrequent, it's just going to cause you to feel tired and maybe be a little irritable throughout the day. But the research shows long-term insomnia increases your risk of obesity, increases your risk of diabetes, increases your risk of high blood pressure and stroke and also increases your risk of memory problems; excuse me, and pain and inflammation. So you can see lack of sleep is a very serious health problem. The good news is it can be corrected. And when we come back from break, Joann will share her personal story about how she overcame her insomnia. So don't go away. We'll be right back.


JOANN: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Even though I'm a registered dietitian and I have been for years, I did not know how to fix my own sleep problems. So I'm going to share what I have learned over the years and over many years this has been: my sleep problems began in my thirties. I had a stressful job, management job, slept poorly, often drinking cups of coffee during the day to get me through the day: bad, bad choice because that of course made it worse. So soon I was trying Benadryl and Trazedone and medications for sleep. So gradually the sleep got worse no matter what I did.

And many years later I began to work at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. That’s about six and a half years ago. I started working with Dar and sleep was a huge focus of healing for me because it was a big part of my issues. I started with 400 and then up to 600 milligrams of magnesium glycinate. I was still waking in the night some and I was sleeping better.

CASSIE: It was better.

JOANN: Everything I've done has made it better, but you know, it was just kind of getting, I need to get to that eight hours.

CASSIE: Right.

JOANN: So I was still waking in the night and brain chatter would wake me up at two or three in the morning or four in the morning. I added 5-HTP to my nightly routine before bed, hoping it would kind of carry me through the night.

CASSIE: And calm that brain chatter.

JOANN: And take care of that brain chatter. And I also added some progesterone cream in the evening. Everything helped a little more, but I was still waking in the night. And finally I went into the doctor and I said, “I think I need a sleep study.” So low and behold I had sleep apnea and after getting a CPAP machine, things did get better for awhile. It was a little bit of a struggle to get used to wearing that. And I hear that from a lot of clients, which I agree with. It did take awhile, but I am adjusted to it now. It is helping quite a bit. And then some family stressors came into play a few years ago causing more sleeplessness. And I started adding melatonin to my routine and sometimes I even add a little one more milligram of melatonin in the middle of the night.

CASSIE: Perfect.

JOANN: So I'm a person who takes 10 milligrams of melatonin before bed time.


JOANN: But if for some reason I wake up in the middle of the night, I take one more. If it's two o'clock in the morning or so, and I have another five or six hours to go, then I will take another milligram. Even I would say at least four hours to go, it would be important to have that. But now I'm sleeping seven and a half to eight and a half hours most of the time. And I do feel so much better.

CASSIE: Life is better when sleep is good.

JOANN: Life is so much better.

CASSIE: Yep. And I'm glad you pointed that out. I didn't learn that until we were at a conference together last year that melatonin doesn't last all throughout the night. And so if you wake up in the night it's fine. And I do the same. I keep just those little one milligram tablets for the middle of the night if needed.

JOANN: Yup. That's right. So now I can wake up with no alarm and I'm well rested.


JOANN: Yeah.


JOANN: Much better; so before break, we were talking about how to make serotonin and when we have good levels of serotonin, we feel happy. We have positive moods. We get restful sleep. 5-HTP also indirectly helps to produce that melatonin. So when women are low in serotonin, they often have more hot flashes, carb cravings have more headaches, especially migraine headaches. And low serotonin can be a common cause of not being able to get back to sleep.

CASSIE: Absolutely.

JOANN: Sometimes I've even popped a 5-HTP in the middle of the night.

CASSIE: Me too.

JOANN: And that can be really helpful with that brain chatter.

CASSIE: Does your dresser look like a medicine cabinet as mine does? Sleep is important. I'm going to keep it all there and depending on the day I might grab something different.

JOANN: It’s handy.

Stress, caffeine and serotonin


CASSIE: Yeah. You know when you're going through stressful times or stressors in your family, sometimes it that 5-HTP in the middle of the night instead of melatonin. But again, yeah, like Joann is saying, 5-HTP is a supplement that gets converted into serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes called our sleep brain chemical, so very important. And you mentioned hot flashes, which makes me think of a question for the listeners and it's going to pain me to say this because I bet some of you are sipping on your morning cup of coffee right now as you're listening to our program, right? Have you ever thought that that morning coffee could be causing you to have more hot flashes? Or have you ever thought that that coffee you're drinking right now at 8:52 in morning could keep you up; keep you awake half the night? And I know from experience it's so easy to fall into the daily coffee pick-me-up routine, especially if you're not sleeping well. But here's an interesting fact about caffeine. So I looked up the average amount of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup of coffee that you'd buy out at the coffee house. That's usually a little bit higher in caffeine than what you might brew at home.

JOANN: A lot stronger.

CASSIE: Right? So it is about 300 milligrams is kind of the average depending on where you're getting your 16 ounce cup of coffee. So let's think about that. 300 milligrams of coffee, of caffeine, excuse me, for most humans will affect you for seven hours, but then it has a half-life. It's not totally out of your system. So half-life, meaning we cut that 300 in half. Now we still have 150 milligrams circulating in our body of that caffeine for seven more hours. Still there's a half-life. Cut it in half again, we have 75 milligrams of caffeine circulating in our system for another seven hours. Now we're talking about 21 hours and there's still caffeine in your system. And for a lot of us, as we get older, our liver is no longer clearing that caffeine from our body as it used to, and it's affecting our sleep.

JOANN: That's right. And as long as we're discussing sleep during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, we need to discuss how our sex hormones are affecting our sleep. So time for a little biochemistry during perimenopause, which can start in a woman's like late thirties or even forties, 50s. Ovulation often slows down or is sometimes skipped. When ovulation does not occur progesterone's not produced. So progesterone is our sleep hormone, our calming hormone and our relaxing hormone. So we find that many people need a professional grade of progesterone cream at bedtime to help get better sleep.

CASSIE: Yes, and typically we recommend the same progesterone cream that Dr. Christiane Northrup recommends in her book called The Wisdom of Menopause; great book. And that is called Pro-gest. That's the name of it. So it's Pro-gest progesterone cream; usually just a quarter teaspoon at bedtime does the trick.

JOANN: So as you can see, there's no one perfect answer to experience restful sleep each night. So we recommend coming to Nutritional Weight and Wellness and seeing one of our nutritional counselors. We are all very helpful with sleep problems. And we can work with people, consider sleep habits, nutrition and stress level. And when our clients are following our recommendations, they generally come away with finally being able to get a good seven and a half to eight hours of restful sleep. So just go to our website at or call our office at (651) 699-3438 to set up a consultation with one of our dietitians or nutritionists.

Nutrition Counseling

CASSIE: Yes. And as we always say, you can experience better health through eating real food. We know it's a simple message, but it's a powerful one. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for listening and have a healthy day.

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