Are you experiencing crashing fatigue in menopause? This type of fatigue grips you suddenly, for no apparent reason, with a rush of exhaustion and the feeling that you’re being drained of energy. It's is often accompanied by a sensation of muscle weakness and lethargy that stop you in your tracks.

In fact, crashing fatigue can prevent you from carrying out even the simplest, everyday activities. It can come on at any time of day, and is more than just feeling drowsy. Here are two descriptions from a UK online patient forum:

“I experience extreme fatigue that will just hit me out of nowhere. I could be fine one minute and the next minute I can't keep my eyes open.”

“Some days my head was so foggy I started to doubt myself at work. Plus I would just feel so drained.”

Along with feeling overwhelmed with deep tiredness, your crashing fatigue can come with its own set of difficult symptoms, including:

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  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent hunger
  • Inability to sleep well, racing thoughts at night, waking up tired
  • Reduced enthusiasm about life
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or emotionally stressed

While some conventional doctors are familiar with the term “crashing fatigue,” hundreds of thousands of menopausal woman understand exactly what it means. However, most may not know that they can get their energy back and feel “normal” again with a few simple steps. Learning the root cause of crashing fatigue is the best starting place to resolve it.

What causes crashing fatigue in menopause?

If you think crashing fatigue in menopause has to do with hormones, you’re 100% right. Women in perimenopause and menopause experience this because the ovaries naturally respond less effectively to the pituitary gland’s signal to increase estrogen. This results in estrogen levels that are excessive on some days, and bottomed out on others.

fluctuation

Wild fluctuations in estrogen can also send your stress hormones on a roller coaster ride, with adrenaline sometimes flooding the body and leaving you even more fatigued. If you are still menstruating, you may already be familiar with this feeling of crashing fatigue right before your period.

For many women, crashing fatigue also has a confounding side effect: they can’t sleep even though they feel bone tired day after day. As estrogen levels rise and fall during perimenopause, the body can interpret it as a hormonal emergency. This sends a “help!” message to the brain that triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline. These fight-or-flight adrenal chemicals can make it even harder to achieve refreshing sleep.

The adrenal glands help make estrogen with hormones like dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, but years of chronic stress can deplete DHEA. That makes it harder for your body to maintain hormone balance in menopause which makes you more prone to crashing fatigue.

Life after crashing fatigue: more energy, resilience (and joy!) every day

You can reset your energy and rid your life of crashing fatigue by paying careful attention to maintaining hormonal balance, fueling your metabolism, and allowing for nightly recovery. The circular connection between these three steps allows them to work together to resolve crashing fatigue.

1. Hormone rebalancing

Crashing fatigue is linked tightly to fluctuating estrogen levels, especially when the changes are severe and/or rapid. That’s why the correct balance between naturally falling estrogen levels and your other hormones helps smooth out the hormonal ups and downs that drain energy and disturb sleep. A menopausal woman is much more vulnerable than a young woman to the effects of stress so pacing yourself and allowing for more time-outs during the day is important.

Herbal extracts, which are the models for many drugs and medicines, are powerful body-friendly herbal extracts that can help coax hormones into balance, continually adjusting as necessary. Red clover, ashwagandha, and especially black cohosh can adapt to the real and changing hormonal needs of your body, and function well together.

2. Serious snacking

One sure way to fight crashing fatigue is to protect your precious energy by paying serious attention to your metabolism. The right snack at the right time can help prevent crashing fatigue — or help you recover from an episode — by stabilizing your blood sugar and metabolism.

To prevent crashing fatigue, eat something every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day to keep your energy up, starting with breakfast. Keep snacks super simple, healthy and fast (but not junky) so that they’re ready the very minute you need them. Before, or even during, a period of crashing fatigue, grab a snack like one of these:

fluctuation
  • Apple slices with natural nut butter (almond is best, but peanut butter works in a pinch)
  • Pre-cut vegetables, hummus or baba ganoush, and ½ whole wheat pita
  • ½ cup plain yogurt with blueberries and walnuts
  • Baked chips with guacamole
  • Smoothie made with banana, blueberries, kale, protein powder and coconut water

A note about hydration: Drink water every time you think of it, and whenever you eat anything. Fatigue can be directly linked to low fluid status, and you can change that starting now.

3. Targeted pre-sleep routine

If you have crashing fatigue, you likely have a sleep problem too. As you approach bedtime, calm your body and mind to set yourself up for more restful, refreshing sleep. Combine the following suggestions to help you fall asleep more easily, move into deeper sleep (NREM) faster, and stay asleep longer once you’ve dropped off:

  • One to three hours before bed, take a very hot bath for 30-45 minutes. This stimulates a passive heating effect that enhances and deepens sleep and many women swear by it. Afterwards, finish up your evening routine and prep your body to cool down. This is a key physical change that will tell your body to prepare for rest.
  • Get into bed at least one hour earlier than your current bedtime — even if you don’t feel sleepy — but don’t try to doze off right away. Settle down and turn off all devices after a few minutes and switch to reading a book or magazine, or listening to quiet music. The goal is to get off your feet and lie down. This tells your body it’s time to turn on its internal processes for refreshing, restoring and repairing — things that only happen when you’re resting. Some women like to add 1 mg of natural melatonin about an hour before bed.

Crashing fatigue may be one of your menopause symptoms today, but you can start changing that tomorrow by helping your body to balance its hormones. You’ll feel more resilient and productive, and have much more energy.

So, what will you accomplish when you’re free of crashing fatigue?

References

Crashing Fatigue. [Discussion forum] Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/forums/discuss/crashing-fatigue-270742. Accessed January 12, 2015.

Fatigue. Menopause Centre, Australia. Available at: http://menopausecentre.com.au/Symptoms-Fatigue-menopause. Accessed January 12, 2015.

Burger HG, Hale GE, Robertson DM, Dennerstein L. A review of hormonal changes during the menopausal transition: focus on findings from the Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project. Hum Reprod Update. 2007 Nov-Dec;13(6):559-565.

Lipovac M, Chedraui P, Gruenhut C, et al. The effect of red clover isoflavone supplementation over vasomotor and menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2012 Mar;28(3):203-207.

Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-346.

Shams T, Setia MS, Hemmings R, et al. Efficacy of black cohosh-containing preparations on menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Jan-Feb;16(1):36-44.

Glovinsky P, Spielman A. The Insomnia Answer. New York, NY: Preigree Trade; 2006. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/kth2ocu


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