It’s no secret that many people find winter a little bit dreary. And it can really drag! Dark evenings and cold temperatures make it difficult to exercise and socialise. Who wouldn’t rather comfort eat and watch TV on a grim grey day? But what effect does this have on your menopause symptoms? From poor sleep to weight gain to dry skin, read on to learn how winter can mess with your menopause symptoms and how best to cope.
Do menopause symptoms get worse in winter?
Winter is a mixed bag when it comes to menopause symptoms – it’s different for everyone. You may find that some symptoms get better while other things are worse.
Hot flushes are a common menopause symptom but triggers can vary – what causes your hot flushes may not bother your friends. For example, if you struggle with flushes during hot summer weather, you might find that cooler winter temperatures work wonders. In fact, a large research study of almost a thousand women found that hot flushes and difficulty sleeping bothered people most during July, and least in January.
Others find that their hot flushes are more difficult to manage in the winter. Moving suddenly from cold weather outdoors into warm indoor temperatures can trigger them. You might get even more flustered as you try to quickly remove multiple layers of clothing!
Staying cosy on winter days may also include more hot drinks, alcohol and spicy food, which can all lead to hot flushes.
Find out how alcohol can affect your symptoms.
Cold weather and the drying effect of central heating can make your skin more itchy, irritated and dry. Use plenty of moisturiser if this sounds like you. You may want to consider investing in a humidifier if your skin is particularly troubling.
Read more about itchy skin during menopause.
Many people struggle with feeling low or even depressed during the winter. In its most severe form, this is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression.
The winter blues can be triggered when you:
- See less sunlight, which confuses your sleep-wake cycle
- Do less exercise
Mild feelings of sadness are common, especially if you’re also going through menopause, but speak to your doctor if you feel low for long periods of time or it’s affecting your life.
Aches and pains
Feeling more achy since the temperatures dipped? If you’re exercising less, then this may well be why – we know that exercise can help reduce joint pain.
Weight gain and long-term health
Healthy habits are easily forgotten during winter when motivation is low. Less exercise, winter comfort foods and holiday season indulgence all add up and can lead to weight gain. This can be particularly difficult to manage during menopause when reduced oestrogen levels increase weight gain around your waist.
How to improve menopause symptoms in winter
It can be really difficult to follow a healthy diet, especially when it’s cold, dark and rainy outside. Try meal-planning and take a look at some of our menopause-friendly recipes for inspiration. Make a list of ingredients and stock up on everything you need for a week’s worth of healthy meals.
A takeaway every so often is a lovely treat, and it’s important to enjoy it guilt-free. Balance it out by making and eating more often at home – preparing and planning can make home cooking as easy and convenient as possible.
You might also want to consider a vitamin D supplement as stores of this key nutrient often drop during the winter months.
Find out if a vitamin D supplement is right for you.
Stick to a sleep routine
Darker mornings make a lie-in irresistible! But maintaining a regular sleep routine is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you get good quality rest most nights. This means having the same bedtime and wake-up time every day – even over the weekend if possible! It doesn’t have to be forever – just until you manage to get better quality sleep regularly.
Create a calming wind-down routine if you struggle to fall asleep. Experiment to find out what works for you. Spend an hour doing something that quietens busy thoughts in your mind, such as:
- Reading a book
- Having a bath
- Listening to gentle music
Read more about menopause and sleep.
Make exercise easier
Heading outside when it’s icy cold or rainy is not for the faint-hearted! As you might expect, studies have found a strong link between reduced physical activity and bad weather.
Reflect on what’s holding you back from exercise and try to find a solution. It might be a case of experimenting to see what works for you.
These suggestions might help you stay active over the winter if you already have an exercise routine you enjoy:
- Try an indoor workout – an online workout at home or an in-person gym class
- Organise to exercise with a friend – you won’t want to let them down
- Invest in warm, weatherproof clothing – a hat, gloves and a high-visibility, waterproof and breathable jacket might help you get out of the door on a bitter winter’s evening
Read more about the best exercise for menopause if you want to be more active but you’re not sure where to start.
See the sun
Sunlight is crucial to good health but it’s not easy to get enough in winter. Try to spend at least some time each day outdoors, ideally around lunchtime when the sun is at its brightest. Can’t get outside? Sitting in a sunny window can work too.
Using a lightbox is another option. There is increasing evidence that these can even improve symptoms of SAD.
See your friends
It’s tempting to hibernate every evening during the winter months but a bit of social time can go a long way when it comes to your mood. Make plans to meet friends, go for walks at the weekends, go see a movie or catch up over a coffee. Video calls are a great alternative if leaving the house isn’t an option.
Speak to your doctor if you’re struggling
Sometimes it isn’t winter’s fault that you feel out of sorts. Speak to a doctor if you have any severe symptoms that are not improving or troubling you.
HRT might be an option if menopause symptoms are making daily life difficult. Your doctor can advise if this is the right treatment for your symptoms.
Speak with a health professional as soon as possible if you are struggling with low mood. This is particularly important if you have any feelings of harming yourself or others.
- Contact your doctor or NHS 111
- Samaritans Helpline, available 24/7 – call 116123
If you feel that you can’t keep yourself or others safe, call 999 or go to A&E as a place of safety and for emergency help.
How does the weather affect menopause symptoms?
Just as winter can affect menopause symptoms, other types of weather and environmental conditions can have an impact too.
This one might be obvious. High temperatures and hot environments are thought to trigger hot flushes and night sweats. You might find that you have hot flushes more often or that they are more severe when it’s hot outside.
Dry and uncomfortable menopausal skin often feels worse in cold, low-humidity environments. This includes indoor air in cold climates where central heating is in use, as well as air in air-conditioned rooms in warm climates.
Dry, itchy skin is common during menopause due to decreased oestrogen levels, but hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and moisturising creams can help.
Find out how to fix five common menopause skin problems.
Mood changes and sleep problems
In many parts of the world, there are at least a few months each year when the weather is less than perfect for exercising outdoors, which can have a big impact on your menopause symptoms. While cold weather and lack of daylight can wreak havoc with your routine, very hot weather isn’t ideal – or safe – for exercise either.
We know that some menopause symptoms are improved by exercise, so if you’re doing less than usual, they may get worse. This includes hot flushes, sleep problems and mood changes like feeling low
Menopause symptoms really can get worse during winter. But there are practical things you can do to make life that bit easier, from meal-planning and moisturising to exploring HRT.