Updated: Apr 10, 2021
Hormones have a huge impact on sleep, your health and your energy as well as your overall well-being and longevity. And when your hormones are imbalanced, they can wreak havoc and negatively affect many aspects of your health. They work together in a brilliantly choreographed dance to create homeostasis, or stability in your internal environment, and if one or more is imbalanced it can cause major health problems.
Hormones are powerful chemical messengers that are released into the blood by one tissue or organ and provide instructions for the cells in other parts of the body to elicit responses. Working together, they play an important role in the daily functions of all your body's systems from growth...to sleep...to mood...to metabolism and much more.
They control and regulate:
Stress response through the adrenal glands.
Blood sugar balance through the pancreas.
Metabolism of all cells in the body through the thyroid gland.
Sexual function through the reproductive organs.
Gastrointestinal function through the mucosa of the digestive tract.
Body fat and weight through the pancreas and fat cells.
Growth and tissue building through the pituitary gland.
This is just a small snapshot of the influence that hormones have on so many important processes throughout your body. Living out of harmony with our natural biological rhythms is causing an epidemic of hormonal dysregulation. If your hormones are imbalanced you may feel moody, unfocused, tired, low energy, anxious and/or irritable and you may experience insomnia and weight gain or loss.
Sleep and Hormones
Many hormones are affected by sleep and circadian rhythm. One of the worst habits that can contribute to hormonal imbalance is a consistent lack of deep and restorative sleep.
Here are some of the hormones that are related to sleep:
Melatonin, which you can think of as the sleepy time hormone, is needed in order for your thyroid hormones to set your metabolism. Cortisol, which needs to be balanced with melatonin production, is also related to your metabolism. Both of these hormones are regulated and kept in balance when your circadian rhythm is optimized.
The appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are hugely impacted by sleep and your circadian rhythm. Without enough sleep, you won't produce enough leptin, which tells you when you are full, and you won't feel satiated during the day. The reverse is also true--with sleep deprivation you produce too much ghrelin which cues your body with hunger signals. Overabundance of ghrelin and underproduction of leptin means your are hungrier without feeling satiated and this will increase your cravings for food.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is released within the first 70 minutes of falling asleep. HGH is considered the anti-aging hormone and 70 percent is produced during slow-wave, quality sleep. It is responsible for the proper growth and development of your body by maintaining lean tissue, stimulating fat breakdown and helping you burn fat for fuel, increasing the number of red blood cells, boosting heart function, improving mineral density and ultimately protecting your body from aging.
The majority of testosterone is produced during sleep, specifically REM sleep, and optimal levels for men and women are necessary for health and longevity. Proper levels are necessary in our motivation, drive and libido as well as our ability to recover from exercise and retain lean body mass. It supports bone health and is also neuroprotective which means it protects the brain from aging. Testosterone allows women to relax at night and strengthens the adrenal glands. Not having enough testosterone can cause insomnia, cloudy thinking, memory problems, issues maintaining muscle mass and problems with libido. Women are able to build up more testosterone during resistance training and HIIT training rather than by doing cardio.
Proper progesterone levels are necessary for sleep and nourishing your nerves. Have your levels checked if you are experiencing insomnia, anxiety and depression, overactive mind, restless leg syndrome and and/or nerve pain.
Hormone Balancing Tips
Eat a hormone balancing diet by cutting out processed sugars and refined carbs and reducing animal fats. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet of whole foods that are low in sugar and high in healthy fats and proteins. Good sources of healthy fats are wild-caught salmon, grass-fed butter, avocados and coconut oil.
Bulk up on fiber. You can do this simply by adding 2 Tbsp. of ground flaxseeds per day to your green smoothie. Flaxseeds have phytochemicals that help balance hormones. You want to avoid constipation which is bad for your hormones. Make sure you are pooping at least one time per day.
Eat only organic foods and meats to avoid pesticide and hormone exposure.
Limit or decrease alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol can compromise the function of the liver and kidneys which can inhibit the body's natural detoxification process and create hormonal imbalances. Alcohol also interferes with the beginning stages of sleep when daily healing and restoring processes need to be taking place.
Avoid xenoestrogens from the environment that have the ability to damage tissue and can lead to an increased cancer risk. These are toxins found in plastics, skin care products, processed foods, cleaning products, artificial fragrances, insecticides and pesticides and can cause disruption to your hormones by leading to estrogen dominance. This can increase the risk of other disease processes in your body. You can avoid exposure to them by using glass storage containers for food and drink instead of plastic, eating organic food, choosing clean skin care and body products and using safe household products. Check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website or app to determine the safety of your specific products before purchase.
Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your hormones balanced. Just one night of sleep deprivation causes a 40 percent reduction in your body's ability to handle your glucose and manage your blood sugar levels. And, with sleep deprivation you are more likely to crave and consume sugar. Late nights, too much caffeine and too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your hormones. Set a regular bedtime aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep every night and stick to it!
Making regular exercise a priority is crucial in balancing hormones.
Manage your stress. Emotional imbalances wreck hormones and sleep so stress management is extremely important as well. Anger, fear and agitation affect hormonal balance so identify your sources of stress and make positive changes to your circumstances and reactions.
These are just some of the ways to address hormonal imbalance. You need to make these regular habits if you want to see a difference in how you are feeling. As you have learned, there are many important functions that our hormones are responsible for and when out of balance, can cause a cascade of health affects. If you suspect hormonal dysregulation, you will want to work with a practitioner to run tests and develop a strategy for getting you back into balance.
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About the Author
Kristi Ryan is the founder of Kristi Ryan Holistic Nutrition and the creator of the Abundant Energy Method for Busy Women. As a holistic nutrition and health coach specializing in energy wellness she supports, educates, motivates and empowers busy women with nutrition, mindset and lifestyle transformation using her proven methodology to bring abundant energy and vitality into their lives.
Disclaimer: The information I share is for general information only and is not intended to replace medical advice. I do not diagnose, treat or cure disease, prescribe treatments or medications, or recommend medical treatment or surgery. You should speak to your physician prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, exercise or medications or acting on anything you have read or discussed with me. If you don’t, you are doing so at your own risk.
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