In her ground breaking book, The Female Brain, physician and neurobiologist Dr. Louann Brizendine tackles the issue of hormones and depression in women. Intrigued by research data which shows that women suffer from depression at a ratio of 2 to 1 compared to men, Dr. Brizendine outlines the different stages of a woman’s life and the effect that her hormones have on her moods. Confirming that hormones are often the source and cause of depression among women in perimenopause is one thing. Knowing what to do about it, however, is everything.
Recognizing Depression during Perimenopause
By medical definition, clinical depression is an imbalance of the brain chemicals, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, over an extended period of time. While both men and women can become clinically depressed, women can be especially prone to depression during perimenopause because of hormone fluctuations. Also known as neurotransmitters, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, play a key role in regulating mood. When these neurotransmitters are in balance, they are able to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, diminish sadness and depression and generally take us to a happy place of calm and contentment.
During perimenopause, however, when women begin to experience an imbalance of their reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, these mood regulators also become disrupted. The changes in the hormone levels not only affect how much of these chemicals the brain is able to produce, but also the efficiency and effectiveness of their function in the brain as well. What this results in is what many women often complain of during perimenopause: insomnia, excessive sweating at night, irritability, rages, weepiness, and at times, heavy and debilitating depression.
Many physicians prescribe antidepressants for perimenopausal women. While antidepressants, also known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), can provide some measure of relief from depression for some people, they also come with a whole host of undesirable side effects, and a great deal of skepticism as to their long-term effectiveness. In particular, when it comes to the issue of feeling like you're overheating while sleeping, these prescriptions often prove to be an ineffective medication for night sweats.
Depression in perimenopause, is not an isolated problem that can be simply treated with antidepressants. Important factors such as diet, exercise, exposure to enough sunlight, sleep, handling extreme night sweats and dealing with the mind also need to be taken into consideration as well.
Healthy Hormone Balance: Diet, Exercise, Sunlight, and Sleep
The importance of a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, regular exposure to sunlight and deep, restorative sleep to improve mood and break the cycle of depression cannot be overstated.
Diet: Complex carbohydrates, whole grains and lean proteins not only help stabilize blood sugar (which also helps to improve mood) but they naturally raise the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.
Exercise: Cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking increases oxygen rich blood to the brain, which helps to lift the fog of depression. If you’re walking outside, you will have the added benefit of exposure to sunlight which also increases serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain.
Sunlight & Sleep: In addition, regular exposure to sunlight during the day will help the brain restore the body’s circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock which regulates sleep, among other bodily functions. Together with a consistent sleep schedule, diet, exercise and exposure to sunlight will help to improve and promote deep, restorative sleep. All of which will work together in synergy to help break the cycle of depression. If your sleep is frequently disrupted due to severe night sweats and hot flashes – very common symptoms of perimenopause – you can find cooling relief and get back to restorative sleep with the BedJet. It’s the first clinically proven device to relieve night sweats and hot flashes. In a clinical study of perimenopausal women, 94% reported improved sleep using the BedJet.
Finally, taking a mental inventory of our thoughts and thinking patterns is imperative if you want to rid yourself of depression. Certainly, the change of perimenopause is a time that causes many women difficulty. The reality of middle age and a different time of life settles in. Not surprisingly, this change is not always easy to embrace. However, how we choose to view it will have a direct impact on our moods. A gloomy outlook and chronic negativity will only serve to undermine all of our efforts at health and wellness. So, it’s important to realize the power of our thoughts and how we perceive our life’s circumstances when it comes to dealing with depression.
If you are feeling depressed, don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider about how you’re feeling right away. For more reading on relief from depression during perimenopause, check out:
- The Mind-Body Solution: The Breakthrough Drug Free Program for Lasting Relief from Depression by Dr. Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D.
- The Female Brain by Dr. Louann Brizendine
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