Shop Bonafide

Foods That May Support Sleep During Menopause

Mallory Junggren

It’s not uncommon for menopausal women to experience sleep disturbances, including difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. In a recent study, it was found that up to 42% of premenopausal women, 47% of perimenopausal women and 60% of postmenopausal women report dealing with sleeping difficulties.1

While there are a myriad of things that can impact someone’s quality and quantity of sleep, it’s important to note that there are several menopausal symptoms, as well as changes in the body that occur due to the natural aging process, that may exacerbate sleep problems. These include2:

Luckily, some of the physical symptoms of menopause contributing to sleep problems, as well as physical changes associated with aging, may be remedied either with dietary supplements or by making a few modifications to your lifestyle and diet.

If you’re curious about what specific foods you can incorporate into your diet to support better sleep, keep on reading. Below we include a few potentially effective, sleep-supportive foods that you may want to consider eating regularly if you’re dealing with sleep disturbances during menopause and beyond.

Melatonin-Rich Foods

Melatonin plays an important role in moderating your body’s circadian rhythm – more specifically, your sleep and wake cycles. As we age, our melatonin levels naturally decline at a gradual rate, and then gradually increase again after menopause.3 While the direct link between melatonin and menopause remains unclear, it’s well documented that lower levels of melatonin and sleeping issues often go hand in hand.4

A recent study found that eating more melatonin-rich foods may help to improve sleep. The foods the study found were highest in melatonin, included5:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts, especially pistachios
  • Vegetables, like mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers
  • Grains like rice, wheat, barley and oats
  • Fruits like grapes, cherries, and strawberries
  • Germinated legumes

Some people may alternatively choose to look into a reputable brand of melatonin in the form of a dietary supplement,6 however, if you’d prefer to try the dietary route first, the above options are perhaps a good place to start. 

Foods Low on the Glycemic Index

Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly certain foods can cause an increase in your blood sugar levels.7 A study of more than 50,000 postmenopausal women found that those with diets that rated high on the glycemic index scale, which may include items such as white bread, fried foods, sweets, and chips,8 were more likely to experience sleep problems, including insomnia, in the 3 years following the completion of the study.  Additionally, not only was the risk for sleeping issues higher in the group of women who had a higher glycemic index diet, but it was also high in women who consumed more added sugars – this included things like brown sugar, syrups and honey. It was noted that women who ate more whole fruits and vegetables were at a lower risk for sleeping issues.9

Postmenopausal women who eat primarily lower glycemic index foods, those that don’t cause blood sugar or insulin levels to spike drastically, seem to face fewer sleep difficulties. Foods with a lower glycemic index that you can consider incorporating into your diet to support sleep, include:10

  • Whole fruits and vegetables
  • Lean proteins
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains

Phytoestrogen-Rich Foods

Several studies have linked menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, to sleep disturbances and poor-quality sleep.  What’s more, the loss of estrogen experienced during menopause – which is linked to changes in body temperature regulation (i.e. hot flashes and night sweats) – may cause women to wake up more frequently during the night, decreasing their total sleep time.11

Certain dietary changes may help to combat these side effects of lower estrogen levels. One option is to add more estrogen-rich foods into your diet. More commonly known as phytoestrogens, these food sources are naturally occurring plant compounds that can have an estrogen-like effect in the body and function similarly to the estrogen we normally produce.12   

A myriad of plants and food sources contain phytoestrogens. Foods considered to be high in phytoestrogens, include13:

  • Certain vegetables, like kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • Certain fruits, like pears, plums, apples, grapes, and peaches
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy and soy products
  • Grains, including barley and oats

It’s important to not forget that phytoestrogens may act like a hormone in your body and can potentially cause hormonal side effects. Be sure to check-in with your healthcare provider first before incorporating large quantities of phytoestrogen foods into your daily routine, just to ensure there’s no additional risk.

Another more specific diet that is often considered helpful during menopause is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is low on carbs, is plant-based, favors lean proteins and is antioxidant rich, and low in unsaturated fats. It’s been known to be beneficial for cardiovascular,  health, better glycemic control and weight management.14 Clinical studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet may have a positive influence on sleep patters, sleep quality and sleep duration.15 So, if you’re looking to switch up your diet, and are struggling with sleep issues during menopause, the Mediterranean diet may be a great place to start.

Foods to Consider Avoiding to Support Better Sleep

While there are a variety of beneficial foods to consider incorporating into your diet that may help support better sleep, it’s important to note that there may be some that are detrimental.

Some foods that may negatively impact sleep, include:16

  • Foods and beverages that contain caffeine: Caffeine is considered a stimulant and can increase alertness and make you feel more energized. Foods that contain caffeine include: coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and black tea.
  • Foods high in refined sugar: This can include sweet treats like ice cream, cookies, or candy, along with sugary sodas or juices. One study even associated frequent consumption of things like sugary-sweetened beverages with poor sleep quality.
  • Spicy foods: Hot and spicy foods can contribute to heartburn or acid reflux, whose symptoms often get worse when laying down. Additionally, very spicy foods, like chili peppers, for example, can potentially increase body temperature, which may lead to sleep issues.
  • Fatty or overly processed foods: Fatty foods, like fried chicken or high-fat meats, may negatively affect your ability to fall asleep and can be associated with lighter, lower-quality sleep. Overly-processed foods may also contribute to less restorative sleep and shorter sleep duration – these can include fast foods or packaged snacks.
  • Alcoholic beverages: While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it can significantly disrupt your sleep cycles as levels of alcohol decline in your blood – alcohol has also been linked to insomnia, so it may be best to avoid it before bedtime.

Applying These Dietary Suggestions for Better Sleep

When you choose to eat can also make a difference in the quality of your sleep. Aim to finish eating any large dinners at least three to four hours before laying down for the evening.17

If you feel like you want a snack before bed, try following this rule of thumb about what to snack on: avoid sugary, processed foods to help improve your sleep. Consider a handful of pistachios or walnuts, or perhaps a bowl of frozen grapes, which are less likely to disrupt your sleep.18

By adding a selection of the abovementioned foods to your diet, it’s possible to support better quality and quantity of sleep. At the same time, you want to do your best to avoid foods that can potentially impede your sleep, like highly processed foods or those with a high sugar content.

If dietary changes aren’t helping, a healthcare provider can likely offer additional advice and alternative symptom management options if you’re still having trouble sleeping.

**Disclaimer: As with any nutritional advice, we recommend taking the information provided above with a grain of salt. While the foods we’ve mentioned may anecdotally help to support better sleep, more extensive research needs to be done in order to quantify their exact effects, if any, on this specific area of health and wellness. Always check with a dietitian, nutritionist or healthcare provider when considering making significant changes to your diet.



Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Related Posts

Trending Articles