Even just one night of poor sleep can make you feel awful. Not only are you exhausted and often cranky the next morning, but you may just feel “off” and you’re really not exactly sure why.
This sense of imbalance is most likely thanks to your hormones, or rather, a hormonal imbalance created by a poor night’s sleep.
In fact, your sleep and your hormones may be more closely connected than you realize. If you’re having problems with one (sleep or hormonal imbalance issues), you’re almost certainly having problems with the other.
So let’s take a look at the connection between hormones and sleep to help you get back to feeling like well rested and “normal” again.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals produced by your body and released through your endocrine system— a network of glands and organs located throughout your body.
Hormones are vital for your body to properly function, and they’re responsible for many of your body’s functions. A few of these include:
- Your appetite and your metabolism
- Your body temperature
- Your sexual function and drive
- Your blood pressure and heart rate
- Your circadian rhythm
Symptoms created by inadequate hormone production— such as fatigue even after a full night’s sleep, body aches, and low blood pressure— is often referred to as adrenal fatigue, referring to your adrenal gland, where many of your body’s hormones are produced. What is often referred to as adrenal fatigue is more often than not a result of stress, and a release of cortisol and adrenaline.
However, these side effects can be a sign of bigger health problems or hormonal imbalances.
How Sleep Affects Your Hormones
Getting good sleep at night is vital to producing and regulating your body’s hormones. In fact, without proper rest you put yourself at risk of hormone imbalance and other comorbidities associated with those imbalances.
Chronic poor quality sleep can lead to health problems like:
- Reduced immunity, and increased risk of illness
- Spikes in your appetite
- Obesity and weight gain
- Reduced injury recovery
- Memory loss
- Hypertension and heart disease
Too much of a good thing can be bad too. Excessive sleeping or sleeping more than 9 hours per night can lead to problems like:
- Daytime sleepiness
- A lower metabolism
- Disrupted or altered sleep cycles
- Cognitive issues like reduced focus
The recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is key to ensuring healthy hormone production and regulation. Let’s take a look at some of your body’s hormones, and the role they play in keeping you healthy.
Melatonin is commonly known as the sleep hormone. It’s produced by your pineal gland, and it helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which is influenced by your circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is influenced by the sun, and the blue light from the sun signals your brain’s melatonin secretion. Melatonin secretion is reduced as you wake up each morning, keeping you awake during the day, and more is produced as you approach your bedtime to help you sleep.
However, the artificial blue light produced by LED lights and electronic devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Using these devices at night can delay melatonin production.
Delayed melatonin production increases sleep onset time which is how long it takes you to fall asleep. It also reduces sleep efficiency which is how much time you actually spend asleep in bed.
To help prevent this, try to stop using all your electronic devices at least an hour before bed, and use biological lighting like Biologic Lighting. This will help your pineal gland produce the melatonin you need to get healthy sleep.
Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (HGH), also known as simply growth hormone, is vital in maintaining your metabolism, your immunity, your muscle development, and the production of proteins in your body.
Not getting enough sleep limits the production of growth hormone in your body, which can make your body less able to repair itself and recover from injury, and make you more vulnerable to weight gain.
Growth hormone also affects how your body metabolizes glucose, which can create problems if your body isn’t producing enough of it. This is especially true if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Sleep is a vital part of maintaining your metabolism, which converts food into energy. Your metabolism is maintained by your hunger hormones, which include:
These hormones regulate your hunger, fullness, fat storage, and blood sugar regulation. Poor sleep can negatively affect your hunger and your appetite, which can cause weight gain. Poor sleep can also impact your insulin resistance, potentially worsening diabetes symptoms.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, and is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol also helps regulate the other hormones in your body.
When you get a good night’s rest, your cortisol levels peak shortly after you wake up. This sets off your body’s other hormones as well. However, sleeping poorly can hinder your body’s cortisol release, which in turn can hinder many of your body’s other hormones and glands.
Some studies also indicate that not getting enough sleep can stimulate the body’s release of more cortisol throughout the day to potentially stimulate alertness. Too much cortisol can cause an overactive master hormone system by overstimulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis (HPA).
That disruption can lead to insomnia, shorter sleep time, fragmented sleep and decreased slow-wave sleep.
Estrogen and Progesterone
All people produce estrogen and progesterone in their bodies— they’re not just a “female hormone.” These reproductive hormones are vital in maintaining your reproductive system.
They’re also some of the hormones signaled by cortisol first thing in the morning— so if you don’t sleep well, the disruption of cortisol can disrupt the release of estrogen and progesterone.
This can also cause your thyroid and your metabolism to slow down, creating further problems.
These two hormones are important in the production of melatonin as well, and as we discussed earlier, melatonin is essential for sleep.
Hormones and Women’s Health
As many women can attest to, hormonal changes can lead to some pretty dramatic shifts in your sleep. This is true for men, but especially true if you’re a woman.
Periods of hormonal fluctuation, such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, can cause especially notable changes in a woman’s regular sleep pattern.
For many women, there is a connection between poor sleep and hormones. The lifetime risk of insomnia is 40 percent higher for women than it is for men, and hormones— as well as stress— are the main reasons why.
As a woman approaches her menstrual cycle estrogen and progesterone levels will fluctuate, and estrogen production will drop significantly just before menstruation. This can cause her to experience poor sleep as she approaches her period.
During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels increase immensely and stay at elevated levels until birth. Some women may struggle to sleep during pregnancy, while others may even sleep better than usual. After birth, however, those hormone levels will drop back down to normal levels, which can be a cause of postpartum depression.
The negative effects menopause can have on a woman’s sleep are well-documented— hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and even sleep apnea. During this time, menopausal women will experience declines in estrogen and progesterone, as well as in testosterone levels.
Related: How Menopause Affects Your Sleep
Like we mentioned earlier, progesterone and estrogen are also important for producing melatonin, so not only are hormones making sleep more uncomfortable, but it’s also making a good night’s sleep more difficult to achieve.
Perimenopausal women are also at increased risk of sleep apnea— however, they aren’t the only ones who are. Both women and men are at a higher risk of sleep apnea as they get older, which can wreak havoc on your hormones.
Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep may not always be the cure-all for your hormone imbalance. This is likely because an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep and you may not even realize it.
Struggling with Poor Sleep and Hormonal Imbalance?
A good night’s sleep is vital to your hormone production, and to good overall health. If you think you or a loved one may be at risk for sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, it’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment right away.
Some hormonal change in life is normal, but not if it constantly affects your sleep cycle. Contact us at the Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee to schedule a consultation and return to the good health and restful sleep you deserve.
Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism.” Endocrine Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065172/.Weingus, Leigh. “For Some Women, a Connection May Exist between Poor Sleep and Hormones.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Sept. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/health/sleep-hormones-link/2021/09/17/603c5534-f538-11eb-9738-8395ec2a44e7_story.html.