Are you among the 35% of Americans who don’t get enough sleep?
While everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time, regularly missing those zzz’s can have a serious impact on your health. It’s easy to blame stress, electronics, and poor diet on sleep problems — but what about hormones?
Hormonal imbalances aren’t limited to menopausal women or elderly men. The truth is that there’s a powerful connection between hormones and sleep, no matter your age or gender.
In this post, we’ll explore the relationship between hormone imbalance and sleep. We’ll also explain how rebalancing your hormones can improve your sleep and your overall health.
Read on to learn more!
How Hormones Affect Sleep
Sleep isn’t just something that feels great after a long, hard day. While you’re asleep, your body is busy recovering from the day’s activities (and preparing for tomorrow’s).
A major part of this process involves regulating and producing your body’s most important hormones.
What are hormones, exactly? Think of them as chemical messengers that help to regulate and maintain your body’s functions. These include:
- Sexual function
- Appetite and hunger
- Heart and brain function
- Body temperature
- Soft tissue repair
As you might have guessed, hormones also play a role in your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms.
A good night’s sleep ensures that your body produces and uses hormones correctly. Meanwhile, poor sleep quality impacts hormone production as well as your body’s ability to use them.
Hormones themselves aren’t usually the cause of insomnia. However, if you routinely don’t get enough sleep, it can start to affect your hormone levels (which can start to affect your sleep). This can lead to a vicious cycle of hormone imbalance and sleep problems.
Hormone Imbalance and Sleep: 5 Possible Culprits
With that overview in mind, let’s briefly discuss five hormones that are directly related to sleep.
Melatonin is probably the first thing you think of when you consider the connection between hormones and sleep. In fact, it’s even been nicknamed “the sleep hormone.”
It’s also one of the most popular supplements in America — over 3 million adults take it at least once a month.
Melatonin is produced inside your pineal gland, which is closely associated with the sleep-wake cycle. When your sleep is disrupted or you don’t get enough sleep, your body can’t produce an adequate amount of melatonin. Without enough melatonin, your body can’t regulate its natural circadian rhythms.
Are you surprised to see testosterone on the list? While a low T level is usually associated with sexual dysfunction, it can also wreak havoc on your ability to sleep.
Both men and women produce testosterone naturally, as it’s a vital component of heart, bone, and reproductive health. It’s also normal for testosterone levels to fluctuate throughout the day.
Here’s the really interesting part: Your testosterone levels peak during REM sleep. So if you’re not getting high-quality sleep, your testosterone levels may drop. This is just one of many common conditions that hormone therapy can effectively treat.
Like testosterone, estrogen isn’t unique to one gender. Both women and men produce it as a natural part of the body’s reproductive systems.
For women, however, estrogen plays a vital role in their menstrual cycle. Hormone levels fluctuate during ovulation and menstruation, which can lead to sleep disturbances and insomnia.
Estrogen levels can also vary greatly during pregnancy and menopause, reducing your ability to get a good night’s sleep. A medical professional can evaluate your symptoms and determine if hormonal imbalance could be behind your sleep problems.
Progesterone is another hormone that’s closely linked with fertility and pregnancy. As progesterone levels fluctuate during pregnancy and menopause, it can have a negative effect on your sleep cycle.
You’ve probably heard that cortisol is “the stress hormone.” While it does play a role in your body’s ability to handle stress, it’s also key to maintaining a normal sleep pattern.
As you wake up, there’s a temporary spike in your cortisol levels. At the same time, your melatonin levels decrease, allowing you to feel energized and ready to face the day. Before bedtime (in theory) the opposite reaction occurs — melatonin increases while cortisol decreases.
If either of these hormones is imbalanced, you can fall into a vicious cycle of always being tired yet unable to get high-quality sleep.
Getting Enough Sleep for Hormone Imbalance
Now that you understand how hormones affect sleep, what’s the solution?
To improve the quality and duration of your sleep, try some of these helpful tips:
- Go to bed early enough to get 7-9 hours of sleep
- Stop using electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime
- Keep TVs, phones, and other devices out of the bedroom
- Use a sleep mask, ear plugs, or white noise machine
- Turn down the thermostat so your bedroom is between 60-68 degrees
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day
- Create a wind-down routine so your body knows it’s time for sleep
What if, despite your best efforts, you’re still struggling to fall or stay asleep?
Speak with a medical professional who understands the connection between hormonal imbalance and sleep. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your hormone levels checked, schedule an appointment.
An underlying imbalance could be part of the reason why you’re experiencing sleep problems. The good news is that there are a variety of safe, effective treatment options to address hormone imbalance.
Hormones and Sleep Problems: Help Is Available
There are many possible reasons why you could be struggling to get a good night’s sleep. If you’ve never considered the link between hormones and sleep, perhaps it’s time to explore the possibility.
Your first step is to discuss your health concerns with a medical expert. Ideally, you want to find someone who’s highly trained and certified in hormone therapy and practices integrative medicine.
Your search is easy — review this list of some of the nation’s top experts. Click here to find a provider near you and take the first step towards better sleep — and a much healthier you.