The Link Between Sleeplessness and Hormones
In an ideal scenario, sleep would come naturally and quickly upon going to bed and hitting the pillow. But more often than not, this is not the case, as millions of Americans struggle with sleeping problems and insomnia. While there are several possible causes for having trouble sleeping, from excessive caffeine intake to sleep apnea to stress, hormonal imbalance is one of the lesser known but significant causes of insomnia that can deprive the body of shut-eye.
Experts agree that hormones are linked with sleep in a number of ways. The body’s hormones are like chemical messengers, controlling bodily processes like metabolism and energy. When certain hormones become imbalanced, mixed messages can be triggered in the body as a result and trouble sleeping can occur.
For example, stressful activities can cause an unwanted surge of energy from the hormone adrenaline at bedtime. To help prevent this issue, sleep experts recommend engaging in relaxing activities before bed, such as reading, meditation, or taking a bath, instead of mentally and physically taxing activities like work or exercise. To get a good night’s sleep, it is also important to practice stress management techniques to help counter the effects of adrenaline and cortisol in the body—known precursors to sleepless nights. Scientific research suggests that the hormone oxytocin may influence sleep patterns as well, and that people with higher levels of oxytocin may have an easier time getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Not only can imbalances in hormones cause problems with sleep, but problems with sleep can affect hormone levels. Sleep helps regulate the hormones responsible for hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin), and disturbed sleep can cause the appetite to surge—often in a way where cravings for fattening, sugary foods increase. Daytime fatigue after a restless night of sleep can also lower immune response and energy levels, making it more difficult to stick to a healthy exercise routine. Not surprisingly, both men and women who suffer from insomnia are at a higher risk of being overweight.
Women are more susceptible to trouble sleeping due to their continually shifting hormones. From monthly estrogen and progesterone changes throughout the menstrual cycle to the hormonal shifts during pregnancy to the gradual changes over the years leading up to menopause, a woman’s body is nearly always in a state of hormonal flux. Lack of sleep can be a result of reduced levels of melatonin and progesterone prior to the onset of menstruation. Low levels of estrogen during menopause can also lead to insomnia symptoms. Men too are susceptible to sleeplessness as a result of hormone imbalances, often due to aging and physical health problems—this can often become a vicious cycle, as sleep deprivation lowers testosterone levels.
Sleep Help & Hormone Balance
It can be tempting to try and remedy symptoms of insomnia with over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. However, these “solutions” typically do not address the true cause of insomnia and can have many negative side effects, including perpetuating the problem they were meant to solve. Better sleep is possible, but it often requires a combination treatment approach.
Identifying habits that are detrimental to sleep, along with developing healthy sleep hygiene, are key places to start for treating insomnia. Avoid both mental and physical over-stimulation a couple hours before bedtime, and cut out caffeine early on in the day. Avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime, and set a regular bedtime and wake time. Creating a serene, cool, dark bedroom is ideal for helping induce slumber. If necessary, use a sound machine to block street noise or use a sleep mask to block light.
Even with the best habits and sleep tips, insomnia can still persist. Balancing hormone levels can be a vital factor in finding relief from insomnia symptoms. A bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) specialist, such as the expert physicians within the BodyLogicMD network, have extensive experience and training specific to hormonal imbalances and sleep. A BodyLogicMD physician can work with you to create a sleep therapy program customized to your individual needs and imbalances. Don’t continue to struggle with insomnia on your own—contact an expert physician of the BodyLogicMD network near you today!