Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. When we’re drained of energy, it affects every aspect of our lives. Our relationships with family and friends take a hit, our work suffers, and we’re no longer able to enjoy the things we used to.
Unfortunately, many women suffer from menopause fatigue. According to a study published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society, more than 85% of postmenopausal women feel mentally or physically tired on a regular basis. In comparison, less than 20% of younger women reported the same symptom.
Anyone going through perimenopause, menopause, or postmenopause can suffer from menopause fatigue. However, the symptom appears to be more prominent in the later stages of this transitional time.
But why does menopause take such a toll on our energy levels? And what treatments are available to combat the issue? In this post, we’ll cover all of this and more. Plus, we’ll also discuss some supplements and lifestyle changes that can help bring back your premenopausal mojo.
What Causes Menopause Fatigue?
As with most menopause-related symptoms, menopause fatigue is usually a result of hormonal changes in the body.
As we enter perimenopause and menopause, the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries begins to fluctuate. Estrogen works in conjunction with other vital hormones in the body. So, when estrogen levels soar or plummet, this delicate hormonal balance is disrupted. This can lead to feelings of crashing fatigue.
Another contributing factor is insomnia. Changes in sleep patterns are a common complaint among perimenopausal and menopausal women. Imbalances in hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol can have a knock-on effect on the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This can lead to some long, sleepless nights.
Even if you can fall asleep normally, if you suffer from regular night sweats, you’re unlikely to be getting the deep and restorative rest you need.
All of these factors can leave us feeling exhausted and fatigued the following day.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause Fatigue?
Menopause fatigue can be mild or severe. It affects people on a physical and mental level.
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of menopause fatigue:
Feeling Tired Throughout the Day
It might be hard to get out of bed in the morning. You may also find yourself falling asleep during the day or having to take regular naps.
Menopause fatigue can make physical activity feel more strenuous than usual. It may take you longer to catch your breath after walking up a flight of stairs, and your body may feel heavy and sluggish. This can affect your ability to carry out your regular exercise routine.
Mental fatigue can make it harder to think clearly and concentrate on individual tasks. Your short-term memory and ability to make quick decisions may also be affected.
Hormonal shifts combined with a lack of sleep can lead to mood changes such as irritability. This can have a negative effect on your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.
A lack of Enthusiasm and Motivation
Menopause fatigue can leave you feeling not only physically exhausted but emotionally drained too. You may find it harder to enjoy activities you once loved and begin to withdraw from others.
Stress and Overwhelm
Fatigue can limit our sense of resilience and lead to crushing feelings of stress and overwhelm. If left unchecked, this can become a vicious cycle. Stress triggers the release of cortisone, which can contribute to a lack of sleep and increased fatigue.
Speak to Your Doctor
Although menopause fatigue is a common complaint, its symptoms can also mimic other illnesses, such as depression. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor. They can help you determine if your issues are related to menopause or something else.
What Treatments Are Available for Menopause Fatigue?
In recent years, the medical community has shifted its focus when it comes to treating menopause fatigue.
In the past, doctors were quick to prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other medications. However, these interventions carry potentially serious side effects. And so, a more holistic approach involving a blend of conventional medicine, natural medicine, and lifestyle changes is now generally preferred.
Conventional Medicine for Menopause Fatigue
Here are some commonly prescribed pharmaceutical treatments available for menopause fatigue:
The most widely prescribed medical treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
There are various forms of HRT. Each of them works by topping up crucial hormones that the body is no longer producing enough of. As a result, many of the symptoms of menopause can be alleviated, including tiredness and fatigue.
HRT has also been shown to help reduce night sweats and hot flashes. This can help you sleep better, further enhancing its energy-boosting potential.
Yet, while HRT can significantly improve a variety of menopause symptoms, it’s not for everyone.
This treatment comes with a long list of potential side effects, including, but not limited to, cramps, headaches, bloating, indigestion, migraines, nausea, mood changes, and depression. It also increases your risk factor for serious illnesses such as stroke, cancer, and heart disease.
- Non-hormonal medications
Antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are sometimes used to treat menopause symptoms.
In particular, they have been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of night sweats and hot flashes. This can lead to better sleep and a decrease in fatigue during the day.
However, SSRIs and SNRIs also come with the risk of side effects, some of them serious. It can even induce insomnia in some people. So, this line of treatment should be used with caution and under proper medical supervision.
Natural Supplements for Menopause Fatigue
Natural herbs and supplements carry a much lower risk of side effects than pharmaceutical treatments. And when used in conjunction with certain lifestyle changes, they can be even more effective at reducing the symptoms of menopause fatigue.
The supplements below are generally considered to be safe. However, they may interact with other medications, and they may not be suitable for everyone. Always speak to your doctor before incorporating a new supplement into your routine.
Phytoestrogens are compounds found in many types of plants. These compounds closely resemble the chemical structure of the naturally occurring estrogen produced by the body.
When we consume phytoestrogens, they bind to our estrogen receptors, taking the place of the missing hormone. As a result, many of the most troublesome symptoms of menopause can be alleviated. This includes night sweats, hot flashes, bone loss, and, of course, menopause fatigue.
Phytoestrogens can be found in a wide range of natural food sources, including soybeans and soy products, seeds, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables. You can also find phytoestrogens in supplement form and herbs such as black cohosh, ginseng, and dong quai.
Maca is a Brassica vegetable from Peru. It’s been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries.
Maca has a wide variety of purported benefits, including enhancing mood, boosting libido, and balancing hormones. And so, it’s become one of the most popular natural supplements to help combat symptoms of menopause.
Maca comes in a variety of colors, all of which are used in plant medicine. Yet anecdotal reports suggest black maca is the most effective form for treating fatigue and memory issues.
Valerian is a powerful sleep aid and natural sedative. It’s often referred to as ‘nature’s Valium.
The herb can induce feelings of relaxation and calmness. So, while it’s not something you should consume in the morning, a cup of valerian tea in the evening could help you to drift off quicker and stay asleep for longer. As a result, you could see a marked reduction in fatigue during the day.
Valerian isn’t just a remedy for insomnia. It’s also shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flashes and night sweats.
- Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 for short, is a powerful antioxidant. Taken regularly, it can help to generate energy from your food and deliver it to your cells.
Our bodies naturally produce CoQ10. However, as we age, the amount we produce diminishes. This fat-soluble nutrient helps to charge up mitochondria, leaving us feeling more energetic. Plus, it also helps to reduce systemic inflammation that can lead to crashing fatigue.
Another interesting property of CoQ10 is its ability to protect ovarian reserves from oxidative stress. So, if you’re in a perimenopausal phase and would still like to conceive, this supplement is worth considering.
Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that can help to balance hormones and tackle adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are responsible for pumping out hormones, including estrogen and cortisol. But when the adrenal glands aren’t functioning as they should, it leads to excess cortisol and not enough estrogen.
Ashwagandha works by rebalancing the adrenal glands. This can help with a wide variety of menopause symptoms, including menopause fatigue.
Lifestyle Changes for Menopause Fatigue
Alongside conventional medicine and natural supplements, several lifestyle changes can help to combat menopause fatigue.
- Regular exercise
Hitting the gym or going for a run might be the last thing you want to do during a bout of menopause-related fatigue. But engaging in exercise is one of the quickest ways to raise your energy levels.
A study published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society concluded that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in postmenopausal participants resulted in feelings of increased energy and vigor.
- Cut out coffee
It can be tempting to rely on stimulants such as caffeine when menopause fatigue strikes. But even a small amount of caffeine each day can disrupt your sleep patterns. This can lead you to feel even more tired during the day.
- Avoid alcohol
While it might be tempting to have a drink or two before bed to induce sleep, alcohol actually lowers sleep quality. Even one glass of wine can exacerbate feelings of drowsiness the next day.
Alcohol also dilates blood vessels. This has been shown to trigger hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
Feeding your body wholesome, nourishing food is one of the best things you can do to boost your energy levels and overall health.
Try to incorporate foods rich in phytoestrogens. These can help to mimic the effects of estrogen on the body and alleviate several symptoms of menopause.
Include plenty of sources of iron, such as leafy greens, eggs, chicken, brown rice, and broccoli. And be sure to eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. All of these nutrients have been shown to relieve fatigue and raise energy levels when consumed regularly.
- Practice stress-relieving activities
Stress contributes to feelings of fatigue. So, finding a stress-relieving hobby can leave you feeling more energetic in the long term.
Yoga, meditation, and taking a walk in nature can all help to lower cortisol levels.
- Stick to a sleep routine
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Sticking to a sleep routine helps your body to balance its circadian rhythms. This allows you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Avoid the use of screens for at least one hour before you go to bed each night. Blue light triggers your body to release cortisol, which suppresses the all-important sleep hormone, melatonin.
Fatigue is a common symptom that can happen at any time during your menopausal journey. However, studies show that it’s significantly more prevalent in post-menopause than during perimenopause.
46.5% of women report fatigue during perimenopause, compared to 85%, almost double, in post-menopause.
Fatigue due to hormonal shifts in menopause can continue well into your post-menopausal years before the symptoms begin to fade away.
However, fatigue is also part of the natural aging process in both women and men. So while the hormonal reasons behind your tiredness and brain fog may no longer be there, the tiredness itself may remain.
Fatigue is a normal part of the menopause journey. However, if you have other symptoms unrelated to menopause that are concerning to you, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor. They can rule out any underlying conditions and recommend a treatment plan to suit you.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Fluctuating hormones and disruption to your normal sleep cycle can take their toll both physically and mentally.
Menopause fatigue can range from mild or severe. And in some cases, it can be downright debilitating. But if you’re struggling with the effects of menopause fatigue, you don’t have to suffer alone. Speak to your doctor or reach out to a therapist who can help to guide you through this challenging time of change.
- The dynamics of stress and fatigue across menopause
- Phytoestrogens: Menopause Uses, Warnings, Side Effects, Dosage (medicinenet.com)
- The Research on the Impact of Maca Polypeptide on Sport Fatigue – PMC (nih.gov)
- The effects of valerian root on hot flashes in menopausal women – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on fatigue: A systematic review of interventional studies – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial – PMC (nih.gov)
- Feelings of energy are associated with physical activity and sleep quality, but not adiposity, in middle-aged postmenopausal women
- Uses, types, and effects of HRT