The amount of time we spend sleeping in our entire life is around 25 years. While this may not be true for people who experience restless sleep or suffer from a sleep disorder, a sleep of seven to nine hours every night is necessary for a healthy body. Indeed, tons of information on the web tell you how following proper sleep hygiene and environment stimulates good sleep. Despite the tips, many stay awake like an owl because very few people know that their body’s hormones can make or break your sleep.
Hormones are not limited to fluctuating your mood or affecting metabolic function; they play an essential role in the amount of sleep you get each night. Generally speaking, sleep and hormones are closely linked. On the one hand, a good night’s sleep restores our hormones and gives us the optimal energy for the next day, and on the contrary, a slight change in your hormones can affect your sleep.
We understand that figuring out the definite purpose of hormones for sleep may feel perplexing. So, to clear up your confusion, let’s find out how hormones affect our body and their relationship with sleep.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are ‘chemical messengers’ as they secrete chemicals in your body’s bloodstream, bringing a change in certain cells or organs of the body. They are crucial agents that control many aspects of your body like growth and development, metabolism, mood, even guiding your body on how much to eat and drink, and not to forget, sleep.
The endocrine system includes a range of glands that secrete and produce around 50 diverse hormones in the human body. The adrenaline rush you feel in your body when enjoying a roller coaster ride is because the adrenaline hormone is released in response to an exciting, stressful, or threatening situation.
With the release of this hormone, your mind and body are preparing to deal with that situation. And when your mind is not at peace, you may find it difficult to catch some Zs. Having said that, a night of good sleep is crucial for proper hormone production and secretion, which otherwise can result in hormone imbalance like slow growth, thyroid malfunction, and even sleep disorders.
Hormones Associated With Sleep
Among 50 different hormones secreted in your body, there are a few hormones that are directly related to your sleep. Here are three vital hormones that can affect or stimulate sleep.
Melatonin is referred to as the ‘sleep hormone,’ playing a critical role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle as it is produced in the pineal gland. Darkness triggers the production of melatonin, whereas light stops the production.
Hence, we tend to feel drowsy when it’s darker in the evening. However, using bright lights during bedtime can fool your body into believing that the sun is still shining outside and telling you to be wide-awake. Now you know why experts recommend avoiding binging on Netflix or scrolling through social media before bed, as it can hamper hormone production and sleep patterns.
Produced by adrenal glands, cortisol is the ‘stress hormone.’ Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation, and regulates metabolism. In fact, cortisol and melatonin are evenly interlinked. Fundamentally, cortisol production elevates when you wake up in the morning, helping you feel active and energetic as melatonin production scales down (remember, daylight?). Similarly, when you approach the time for bed, cortisol takes a dip, and melatonin soars.
Simply put, your body produces increased cortisol levels during stress, suppressing melatonin’s production, and eventually (you guessed it right) hampering your sleep. Besides sleepless nights, more than required cortisol levels result in high blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, etc.
You’re probably familiar with insulin and its importance in regulating blood sugar levels. But here’s the thing to know–sleep and insulin can play around in a vicious cycle. Sleep deficiency increases blood sugar levels and triggers unhealthy eating habits such as gobbling snacks before bed. This results in more insulin release, fluctuating blood sugar levels, and causing fidgety nights.
Given high blood sugar levels, you’ll either experience more restless nights than usual or a sugar crash where you move from deep sleep to a lighter sleep phase, exposing you to disturbances.
Hormones That Affect Women and Men
In addition to the above hormones, certain hormones, typically called sex hormones, are present in women’s and men’s bodies and affect their sleep patterns.
While Estrogen and Progesterone are present in both men and women, it plays a vital role in women’s menstrual cycle. Women tend to experience fluctuating estrogen levels throughout life, but significantly during their periods.
But when women hit menopause, estrogen levels crash and women witness specific self-evident symptoms such as hot flushes, muscle, joint pain, etc. Now imagine, would you get a good night’s sleep when you’re feeling a sensation of heat over the entire body or irritation due to constant changes in your mood? Difficult, right?
Similarly, progesterone is best known as a female sex hormone and maintains the line of women’s uterus during pregnancy. Higher progesterone levels create an anti-anxiety effect, and you tend to fall asleep before the ink is dry on the page. Contrarily, if it falls, women experience fluid retention, cramping, and eventually disturbed sleep. But if both progesterone and estrogen levels are high during pregnancy, it can cause nasal swelling and snoring.
Male sex hormone testosterone oversees reproduction, muscle, and bone mass. While found in women too, this hormone production tends to plummet over the years in men.
Fluctuations in testosterone levels are witnessed during the day but are the highest during REM sleep. So, if men are not getting adequate REM sleep, it can affect their testosterone levels. Likewise, a dive in testosterone levels is tied to insomnia. Again, a vicious cycle!
Maintain a Healthy Hormonal Balance
Now that you know about different hormones and their impact on sleep, the key to peaceful sleep is maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Here are some tips that can help you maintain optimal levels of hormones:
- Avoid using your phone or watching TV right before bedtime as it reduces your melatonin level, making it difficult to sleep. As a substitute, read a book or listen to music.
- Set a proper routine but over and above that, stick to it. Daily sleeping and waking up at the same time replenish your hormones adequately and ensure you have a good day.
- Escape callings from midnight munchies or even eating before sleeping. It raises insulin levels and does not allow you to indulge in deep REM sleep.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
Owing to the fact that each body is different, it might take some time to understand how and when hormones affect your body and sleep. Despite following the above tips, a lot of disturbances like snoring can get in the way of peaceful sleep. Nevertheless, you can use a smart anti-snoring solution like Smart Nora that detects snoring sounds and gently moves the pillow to stop them.