Improving your Sleep with Hormonal Balance
Getting a good night’s rest is challenging for many people. Hectic work schedules, general restlessness, and chronic stress play destructive roles in the sleep cycles of many individuals. However, poor sleep quality and insomnia factor more strongly in the lives of women, particularly those experiencing menopause. 63-year-old Barbara Paul spoke in an interview with the Daily Mail, explaining how severely her menopause was affecting her sleep. Subsisting on an average of just two hours of sleep per night, she admitted, “I began to dread bedtime, knowing what lay ahead. I felt so frustrated and it became hard to cope.”
Poor sleep is one menopausal symptom that few women learn about or ever consider when entering the menopause stage. Menopausal sleep issues can appear in a variety of ways. Women entering perimenopause or menopause itself often find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Other women develop worrisome nighttime breathing issues such as menopause-associated sleep apnoea and increased snoring. Hormonal imbalances, hot flushes, and emotional disorders all factor into menopausal sleep issues. Most significantly, some research points to the potential link between hormone imbalances and their effect on sleep quality.
Although additional evidence is needed, tentative studies suggest that this female hormone produces relaxing and almost “sedative-like” effects on the human body. This hormone is also a respiratory stimulant and is useful in some cases for alleviating some types of sleep apnoea. When progesterone levels fluctuate during perimenopause and menopause, sleep quality and nighttime breathing suffer noticeable effects.
The second primary female hormone, oestrogen, is produced within a woman’s ovaries. This powerful hormone is heavily responsible for many bodily functions such as promoting bone and reproductive health; this hormone also positively affects other vital organs such as the brain, heart, and liver. Of the three naturally occurring types of oestrogen, oestradiol is particularly well-known for its benefits, among which are positive sleep and emotional advantages. As menopause progresses, oestrogen levels become drastically low and many unpleasant symptoms begin, including sleep disturbances such as insomnia.
Closely associated with adrenaline, the body’s “fight or flight” hormone, cortisol affects the body’s energy and alertness levels throughout the day. Its levels fluctuate in response to stress, physical activity, and the presence of other hormones such as insulin. This hormone is naturally designed to decrease near bedtime and slowly peak just before we wake in the morning, stimulating hunger and mental alertness for the upcoming day. However, when cortisol levels are unnaturally high in the evening hours, this hormone prevents the mind and body from relaxing. It also negatively stimulates nighttime hunger, causing food cravings and the late night “munchies.” Eating late at night promotes unnatural blood sugar fluctuations often common within women experiencing menopause.
Secreted by the pineal gland, the hormone melatonin is vital for sleep quality. Decreased light and darkness naturally stimulates melatonin’s production. As the levels increase, the body relaxes and prepares for sleep; unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Melatonin production dramatically decreases under the influence of light, especially “blue light” emitted from electronic devices such as computers and smart phones. When negatively influenced by unnatural light sources, melatonin levels noticeably decrease and the body is unable to relax and receive the necessary quality of sleep.
While many hormonal imbalances negatively affect sleep quality, this vicious cycle also works in the opposite direction. Insufficient or poor sleep increases unhealthy insulin-resistance and fuels the possibility of women developing menopause-related diabetes and other blood sugar issues. Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes unable to properly use insulin to digest sugars and carbohydrates. As a result, blood sugar becomes abnormally high and the body is then at risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders such as obesity. Research showed that following four nights of significant sleep deprivation, research participants’ insulin sensitivity was inhibited up to 16%. Their bodies showed noticeable difficulty properly handling ingested sugars. Four nights of poor sleep ultimately resulted in their metabolisms ageing an additional 10 to 20 years beyond their current age.
Improving Your Sleep Quality
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers; they are far more important than we can ever truly understand. Unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms and conditions occur when they are unbalanced. Sleep deficiency and poor sleep quality eventually lead to life-altering medical conditions such as heart disease, strokes, and depression when not properly addressed. Improving our sleep cycles is sometimes possible by re-balancing our hormones. Some simple suggestions include:
- Balancing your diet.
Avoid highly processed foods that are high in sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats. Instead, choose a “natural” diet that is rich in vegetables, soy, fruits, and raw nuts and seeds. Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed-time. A balanced diet reduces the frequency and intensity of blood sugar spikes. This will help stabilise your insulin and cortisol levels.
- Schedule your sleep
By sticking to a strict bedtime regime you allow your body to form restful habits each night. Choose a bedtime and as it approaches, begin helping yourself relax and slow down. Avoid late-night snacks and caffeinated drinks well before the evening arrives. To prevent your cortisol levels from keeping you awake, eliminate high-energy activities such as exercising and work-related projects from your nightly routine. Also, begin turning down the lights at least 2 hours before bedtime. Avoiding excess light, especially the light from electronic devices and televisions, allows your melatonin levels to grow and prepare you for sleep.
- Try Bio-Identical Hormone Replacements
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapies are useful in stabilising low levels of progesterone and oestrogen. These therapies are available in a variety of treatment methods such as creams, supplements, sprays, and patches. With a bio-identical hormone therapist’s guidance, these treatments often prove very helpful in alleviated unpleasant menopause symptoms such as poor sleep quality. If you are struggling with sleep issues or other common menopause symptoms, consider treatments and professional advice on stabilising your hormones. For more information on restoring your body’s balance, please contact us today.