Is insomnia linked to our hormones?
When it comes to hormone health, getting enough quality sleep is incredibly important. It helps women balance their hormones, alleviate or get rid of period-related problems and just feel good all around. We can conclude: Sleep is very important. But we would like to go into more detail about why good sleep is important for the female cycle and how women can improve their sleep.
Are our hormones linked to bad sleep?
One thing is for sure: sleep disturbances and insomnia can definitely be triggered by hormonal imbalances. This is because hormones that are out of balance can significantly affect the quality and quantity of our sleep. PMS-related sleep problems, for example, are usually caused by a hormonal imbalance. If PMS symptoms occur, you may feel bloated, moody and tired in the week before your period. If insomnia is added to this, the PMS symptoms get even worse. It’s a vicious circle and PMS-related insomnia can pretty much affect any menstruating woman. During the luteal phase there is a large increase and then a rapid decrease in estrogen and progesterone. If estrogen and progesterone are in balance, this rise and fall should not cause any symptoms. However, if there is an estrogen dominance, PMS symptoms, including insomnia, can occur.
This hormonal imbalance is even worse if progesterone levels are (too) low overall. This is because low progesterone negatively affects the production of melatonin, which is needed to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Progesterone also promotes relaxation, and if there is not enough of it, it becomes difficult to fall asleep easily. So progesterone is beneficial for sleep.
How the female cycle affects our sleep
We can conclude that bad sleep can definitely be cycle-related and the situation can change depending on which phase of the cycle you’re in.
Sleep during menstruation
Anyone who suffers from period cramps knows that cramps can make it difficult or, in bad cases, impossible to fall asleep. If you don’t have cramps, the rising of estrogen this week probably causes you to sleep deeper and longer than usual. This is because the higher estrogen rises, the more serotonin in the brain increases – an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
Insomnia around ovulation
When estrogen is at its peak, there is a boost to mental and physical energy. While this is useful during the day when you want to tackle a long to-do list, the same high energy can also make it difficult to wind down in the evening and relax at night. However, once you fall asleep, the high levels of estrogen help you sleep soundly as it further raises serotonin levels in the brain.
Sleep in the luteal phase
This period can have ups and downs in terms of sleep. At the beginning of the luteal phase, estrogen drops sharply, which can lead to insomnia as it reduces serotonin levels in the brain. Then in the second half of the luteal phase, estrogen rises again and is paired with rising progesterone, the calming hormone. In combination, this hormonal duo can give you the deepest sleep of your entire cycle. This is a good time to pay special attention to good sleep, as menstruation is right around the corner and the body needs more rest.
Sleep during menopause
Sleep disturbances can unfortunately be a common theme throughout menopause. During menopause, estrogen levels drop and sleep is therefore less deep and restful. This is because estrogen affects the metabolic processes in the brain and promotes deep sleep phases as well as the REM phase. If estrogen levels drop, this can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
Melatonin and why it’s important for optimal sleep and fertility
Getting enough sleep is important for many cognitive and physical processes. A University of Texas study suggests that healthy melatonin levels are essential for optimal fertility. Eggs, like all other cells in the body, are exposed to free radicals that can cause DNA damage. Help against free radicals? That’s right, antioxidants! Melatonin in this case acts as an antioxidant in the ovaries, fighting free radicals and protecting against cell damage. Since healthy egg production is the first step to successful conception and a healthy pregnancy, these findings suggest that healthy melatonin levels are very important for fertility. In fact, the most common cause of infertility is poor egg quality, which in most cases can be greatly influenced by a healthy lifestyle. Cell biologist Russel J. Reiter, who was responsible for this study, recommends that women who want to get pregnant should sleep for about eight hours every night to promote a healthy circadian rhythm and healthy melatonin levels. Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime, so it is important to create optimal conditions for it to do its job. To do this, keep artificial light low before bedtime. The blue and green light from computers, smartphones, tablets or TVs can neutralise the effect of melatonin, so you should greatly reduce or avoid using these devices in the evening. You can also help your body produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by consciously exposing yourself to daylight in the morning and afternoon. A walk outside or sitting near a sunny window are ideal for this
A few simple strategies to improve sleep
If you suffer from cycle-related sleep problems, targeted strategies for better sleep can help:
Micronutrients for good sleep?
Optimal levels of key micronutrients should always be maintained. Certain nutrients also promote sleep, for example zinc and magnesium. Optimal levels of micronutrients also help correct underlying hormonal imbalances.
Lay off the caffeine
Consuming caffeine is not helpful if you’d like to have a good night’s sleep. No matter when in the day you drink it. In terms of sleep hygiene and hormone health, it may make sense to say goodbye to caffeinated drinks for a while.
Stress management is important
For a healthy body, it is incredibly important to reduce stress and to balance it out regularly. The adaptogen ashwagandha supports the adrenal glands and helps modulate the body’s stress response. This can help you fall asleep more easily.
Create an evening routine
The need for comfort and rest before bed should not be underestimated. Unfortunately, in reality, we often find ourselves working or doing chores until the last minute and then falling into bed completely exhausted. However, it is advisable to take at least 20 minutes to half an hour for the transition to bedtime and combine it with a relaxing ritual.
Remember, when you know exactly how your body works and what it needs you can start to make good and informed decisions for yourself and your health.