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Unlocking the Weight Loss Secret: How Better Sleep Can Transform Your Perimenopausal Journey

Updated: May 6

What's the connection between insomnia and stubborn weight gain during perimenopause?




Cortisol is a valuable ally and a potential foe in our daily lives. While it aids us in navigating everyday challenges, it's essential that it follows a neat circadian rhythm, and returns to a baseline level rather than remain in a state of constant high alert.

circadian rhythm


Cortisol and Circadian Rhythm


In our technology-driven world, it's easy to forget the importance of our innate connection to the natural rhythms of day and night. These circadian rhythms are vital for our overall health and well-being.


Governed by a master brain clock, they control our sleep patterns and many other functions.


But with the prevalence of artificial light and screen time, dodgy diets, irregular eating habits, and other factors, our circadian rhythms can quickly become disrupted, leading to various health issues.


One of the key players in our circadian rhythm is cortisol.


Cortisol levels should ideally follow a regular daily pattern, peaking in the morning and then gradually declining throughout the day until it is at its lowest in the evening. Our sleep can often suffer when this doesn't happen or is imbalanced.


Understanding Sleep Cycles and Cortisol Impact


Sleep comprises four stages: N1, N2, N3, and REM, which we cycle through repeatedly each night in approximately 90-minute intervals. Each stage plays a crucial role in our overall restfulness.

Diagram from JR Bee

However, when cortisol levels are either too low or too high at specific stages, it can interfere with the smooth transition between these phases, leading to:

- Fragmented sleep

- Insomnia

- Shortened overall sleep duration

When cortisol is high, people tend to get stuck in light sleep, which can result in waking up not feeling rested and fatigued.

cortisol curve

These are two of my cortisol diurnal curves.

In an ideal world the blue and red lines should be roughly midway between the upper and lower limits.

In January 23, I was feeling a bit tired, but not too bad.

In October 23, I was exhausted, and struggling with insomnia. This included a difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night.

Insomnia is a common symptom associated with perimenopause.


This is often because our diet and lifestyle results can cause our natural circadian rhythm to get out of sync. Combine this with fluctuating hormones; it can be a recipe for disaster.


How does this affect our weight issues?

Restoring balance to our cortisol circadian rhythm isn't just about enhancing sleep; it's also about addressing stubborn weight gain typical during perimenopause.


Various hormones, including cortisol, leptin (which suppresses hunger), and ghrelin (which stimulates hunger and appetite), rely on circadian rhythms to regulate metabolism.


When sleep patterns falter, so do these hormones.


Chronic disruptions to cortisol levels can throw these hormones into chaos, leading to increased hunger, overeating, and a sluggish metabolism. Additionally, cortisol impairs cognitive function and decision-making, making it harder to make healthy food choices.


Cortisol's impact on energy production can trigger cravings for quick energy sources like simple carbohydrates, leading to long-term blood sugar imbalances, weight gain around the abdomen, fatigue, digestive issues, and hormonal imbalances.


Moreover, cortisol antagonises the actions of the thyroid, which is crucial for managing weight.


Chronic sleep deprivation can thus result in stubborn weight gain that is difficult to lose, depression, and mood swings due to hormonal disturbances.


By addressing cortisol imbalances, we can ultimately unlock vibrant health and reclaim our vitality during the perimenopausal years.


The DUTCH Test: A Comprehensive Insight into Health


The DUTCH test is pivotal in assessing cortisol levels throughout the day, offering invaluable insights into our stress response and overall well-being.


Beyond merely observing circadian patterns, the DUTCH test delves into other critical factors. It assesses the rate at which cortisol is metabolised and determines whether there's a preference for active cortisol or its inactive form, cortisone. These insights can shed light on issues such as hypo and hyperthyroidism, blood sugar dysregulation, and liver function.


Moreover, research has established a clear correlation between elevated cortisol metabolites and BMI, emphasising the test's significance in understanding metabolic health.


Functioning as a roadmap, the DUTCH test guides us toward tailored interventions that restore balance and expedite the healing process.


Fortunately, there are many steps we can take to reset our circadian rhythm and rebalance cortisol levels.


Essential strategies include prioritising sleep hygiene, managing stress, and adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.


So, if you're struggling with sleep issues or stubborn weight gain, consider taking a closer look at your cortisol levels - it could be the key to transforming your wellness journey.


Talk to me if you would like more support – or simply sign up.


Remember, understanding and then addressing your symptoms is vital to finding relief and improving not only your daily life, but your long-term health too.


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