You look at the clock and calculate if you fall asleep in the next 15 minutes how much sleep you can get before your alarm goes off. Then you calculate how rough a day it is going to be if you only get that much sleep. You look back at the clock. You didn’t fall asleep, so you do the math with 15 minutes less sleep and 30 minutes less sleep. This is becoming a recurring theme at night and not as fun as the sleepless nights of your twenties. Why does this keep happening? Did you know hormones affect sleep?
Do Hormones Affect Sleep?
The short answer is – yes! In fact, it can start a vicious cycle as sleep troubles can cause hormones disruptions that send your circadian rhythm spinning which leaves you up at night staring at that alarm clock. Ugh… it can seem never-ending, which leads to stress, which causes – you guessed it- more sleep problems.
Hormones are chemical messengers that set into motion all sorts of physiological functions including sleep. Your circadian rhythm is healthy when hormones are telling different organ systems to do the right thing at the right time. Light, food and behaviors can affect this natural process that tells your body when it is time to go to sleep. Don’t forget, your body is like a Swiss watch and that means your body is interconnected. There are a number of hormones that can cause your sleepless nights and mess with your circadian rhythm.
PMS, PCOS and Perimenopause Can Mess with Your Sleep
Cramps, hot flashes, and irritability aren’t helping you sleep, and sleepless nights are another common symptom that people who suffer these conditions experience. Remember, PMS is not normal, your transition to menopause shouldn’t be full of symptoms and PCOS is more common than you think. These hormonal balances aren’t healthy, and hormones affect sleep.
This is a problem because ladies biologically need more sleep than men. Hormonal imbalances are more often a secondary problem, so it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s causing them. Your body needs sleep to heal and build up hormone stores but if you aren’t getting sleep because of hormonal problems, then it’s exasperating the problem.
Where’s the Melatonin?
Many of you have probably heard of the supplement melatonin but it’s not just a supplement. It’s a hormone. Your body makes this hormone that sends the message of when it is time to sleep. This hormone is greatly impacted by light. Light in the morning can cause melatonin to go down and darkness can cause it to go up at night. That’s why it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene and support your body’s circadian rhythm to naturally produce melatonin.
Some individuals will experience temporary relief taking melatonin but it’s a sleep aid that gives you time to get to the root of the problem. It’s not a permanent fix. It’s also not a fix for everyone because not everyone’s sleepless nights are caused by low melatonin. Melatonin can cause liver problems if you don’t need it. Taking a hormone in excess is detrimental because then it needs to be metabolized by the liver.
Don’t Forget Cortisol
If we are going to talk about melatonin, we also have to talk about cortisol. Yes, the hormone we always talk about when we talk about stress! It also has many other functions including being an important part of the circadian rhythm. Throughout the night your cortisol starts to rise to wake you up in the morning. Throughout the day it decreases until it’s at its lowest levels right before sleep. Stress to the body can cause your cortisol to be high consistently. It might be because of emotional stress or by eating too many sugary snacks. Those sugary snacks can increase your cortisol and your insulin which we will talk about in just a moment.
High cortisol can cause long term damage as it steals from your other hormones causing further hormonal imbalance. It’s easy to get your cortisol tested by saliva, urine or even blood. You want to make sure you are testing throughout the day so you can see how your cortisol is impacting your sleep.
Insulin and Sleep
Insulin is another one of the hormones that rise as it gets closer to the time you’re supposed to be getting up. It helps you wake up and know when it’s time to add fuel to the fire that gets you moving. If you are waking up in the middle of the night to snack or if you’re waking up starving that’s a sign of hormone dysregulation. It could be a number of hormones because they are all connected like that Swiss watch. You won’t know unless you get tested.
To keep your insulin levels healthy, avoid added sugars and eating too close to bedtime which can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar. Find out why sometimes skipping breakfast is good. It’s also important to get good sleep because bad sleep habits lead to bad eating habits and other hormonal imbalances.
Natural Sleep Aids
Sleep aids aren’t a permanent fix but a band-aid but can help while you find out what’s causing the kink in your sleep cycle. They won’t work forever but they will give you time to get to the root of the problem and get tested. I know we talk about getting tested a lot – it’s better than spending money on supplements you don’t need.
- Melatonin – This hormone works for some people but not everyone. It can cause liver problems in those that don’t need it.
- California Poppy – This herb calms an excited mind and allows you to relax at night.
- Passionflower – is known to reduce insomnia and anxiety allowing for restful sleep.
- CBD oil – One of the many benefits of CBD oil is relaxation and sleep.
- Magnesium and Potassium– Most people are deficient in these important minerals and having sufficient levels can help with restful sleep
Don’t let Your Hormones Keep You Up at Night
Staring at the clock all night isn’t helping you heal or stay sane, so find out what’s keeping you up at night. Make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene and following our tips to get better sleep. If you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about your sleep problems and know how hormones affect sleep. You need to sleep to heal, so don’t let your hormones keep you up at night.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
Learn more about why women need more sleep in this video with Dr. Patrick Flynn: