Research conducted over the past couple of decades have shown that getting a good night’s sleep is necessary for everything from memory to weight maintenance, cognitive function, and stress relief, yet are you aware of the important role played by your hormones in ensuring you sleep well, or of the effect that sleep has on hormonal function? In this post we highlight key elements of this interaction, suggesting important ways to relax and sleep tight, every night.
Our Hormones Affect the Way We Sleep
For both men and women, changes in hormone levels can make a big difference in terms of sleep. For instance, the dramatic drop in progesterone that occurs just before a woman starts her period, affects the body’s ability to control temperature, which can reduce the amount of REM (deep/dreaming) sleep enjoyed per night. In contrast, progesterone rise significantly during the first trimester of pregnancy, which explains why women can feel so sleepy, even during the day time.
During menopause, meanwhile, low oestrogen levels and rising adrenalin levels can make it harder to sleep well. In particular, when insufficient oestrogen is produced, body fat can accumulate in the stomach area, increasing the chances of sleep apnoea and snoring.
The same occurs with men; as they age, testosterone levels can drop, resulting in poorer quality sleep.
Finally, when men and women alike are stressed, and cortisol levels remain at a constant high, their heart rate and blood pressure tends to rise, and it can be very difficult to feel relaxed enough to fall asleep or remain asleep without tossing and turning.
Sleep Affects our Hormones
We need to ensure we get a good night’s sleep every night for various reasons, including the alterations to hormones that ensue when we are sleep deprived. One hormone in particular – Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is crucial for cell repair, weight loss, injury recovery, metabolism and more, and our body releases most of it when we are sleeping. Indeed, sleeping well is one of the most powerful ways to increase HGH levels without resorting to medication or supplementation.
During sleep, many other hormones are released into the bloodstream, including ghrelin and leptin (which balance our appetite so we do not have stronger urges to eat more), as well as insulin and cortisol (which prompt us to feel hungry when we wake up, so we can consume the foods we need to function and concentrate throughout the day).
How to Enhance Sleep Naturally
For most people, making a few simple changes to their daily routine can make a big difference to their quality of sleep. Weighted blankets, of instance, are a great way to battle stress; weighing slightly more than normal blankets, they instil a sense of comfort and are currently recommended for many conditions, including anxiety and insomnia.
Other ways to feel sleepier at night include daily exercise, mindfulness meditation prior to bedtime, and limiting the use of gadgets in the late afternoon and night, since the light they contain can interfere with our natural sleep responses.
Finally, stimulants such as coffee and alcoholic beverages should be avoided, since they can interfere with sleep quality or, in the case of stimulants, exacerbate insomnia. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and other natural supplements are also commonly used to battle stress.
The relationship between hormones and sleep holds important clues to the state of our mental and physical health. It is the ultimate symbol of the delicate relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Ensure you obtain a good night’s sleep to keep your weight down, feel alert, and battle stress naturally. Above all, enjoy the vitality that comes from the right balance between activity and rest.