There is nothing like waking after a good night’s sleep, refreshed and ready to tackle the new day. But being a woman comes with bodily changes that can make good sleep elusive. Menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause can take you on a hormonal rollercoaster ride filled with mood swings that can come between you and your sweet dreams.
Changing female hormones are not the only culprits that can rob you of sleep. Other delicate hormonal balances can play a part in the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Female Hormones That May Affect Your Sleep
Estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries and in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands. Estrogen is usually associated with reproductive health, but it also allows your body to process serotonin, increases bone formation, and affects your skin. As women approach menopause, estrogen levels can plummet, affecting sleep more than during any other period of life. Mood swings that come with low estrogen can make it difficult to relax to prepare for sleep, and hot flashes and night sweats can impair sleep.
Progesterone is also produced primarily by the ovaries and in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands. It helps counter the effects of too much estrogen. Progesterone is also important for healthy brain function. Its natural anti-anxiety effect can help you fall asleep faster and experience fewer disruptions in your sleep. When progesterone levels begin to fall—because of menstruation or menopause—it can cause anxiety and insomnia.
Other Hormones That May Impact Your Sleep
Cortisol and Melatonin
Cortisol and melatonin work hand-in-hand to regulate your sleep patterns. Cortisol is produced by two adrenal glands, one atop each of your kidneys. Cortisol is also called the stress hormone because it facilitates your ability to cope with, adapt to, and recover from stress. When your body releases cortisol, it raises your blood sugar level and blood pressure to prepare your body for physical activity. Normally, cortisol levels rise sharply in the morning and help you wake refreshed. As you go through the day, cortisol levels decline, while melatonin levels gradually increase as you get closer to going to bed. Melatonin, called the sleep hormone, is produced by the pineal gland, located in the brain. When your optic nerves detect light waning at the end of the day, it triggers the pineal gland to release melatonin, which helps you wind down to get ready to sleep.
Normally, as melatonin levels increase, cortisol levels decrease. But stress, sugar, and blue light can throw off this simple but delicate balance:
- Stress can trigger the release of cortisol, reducing your melatonin levels, and affecting your sleep.
- Sugary treats before bedtime can increase cortisol (and insulin) levels, too, making deep, restful sleep a challenge.
- If your optic nerves detect light similar to natural light—such as the blue light emitted by computers, TVs, tablets, and smartphones—it can trick your brain into believing that it’s still daylight outside. So watching a movie or catching up on social media at bedtime could increase cortisol, reduce melatonin, and therefore, compromise the quality of your sleep. Consider changing your device to dark mode in the evening.
Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, regulates blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels become elevated regularly, your body can become less sensitive to insulin, requiring your body to produce more and more to have the same impact. Not only can this progressively result in diabetes, but it can also affect your sleep, as blood sugar levels fluctuate during the night.
Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolic rate and digestion. If your thyroid is not functioning properly and producing too much or too little hormone, it can lead to poor sleep, in addition to an extensive list of other side effects. Your physician can act as your guide as to when and how often thyroid screenings should be included in your annual care plan.
- Hyperthyroidism is the condition where your thyroid is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. This can overstimulate the nervous system, causing restlessness to the point where you may find it difficult to get to or stay asleep.
- Hypothyroidism is the condition where your thyroid is underactive and produces too little thyroid hormone, leaving you feeling fatigued and lethargic. Besides causing daytime fatigue by slowing metabolism, hypothyroidism is linked to sleep apnea, which in turn, could contribute to daytime fatigue.
How To Get Help
ReVital offers free consultations where you can speak to one of our clinicians about ReVital’s Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. At ReVital, we can conduct simple blood tests to evaluate the levels of these hormones in your system and prescribe supplements or therapies to treat and control the majority of hormonal imbalances. We also encourage that you connect with your regular doctor about any changes in your health and moods.