Hormones and Sleep

Are you waking up between 2 and 4 am and no matter what you do you can’t go back to sleep? Or do you have trouble falling asleep? Insomnia can take different forms and yes your hormones could be at the root of any of these patterns!

How do your hormones affect your sleep? Let’s explore some common patterns that can keep you up at night:

  • Estrogen Dominance: This is when your estrogen is much higher, and therefore dominant over your progesterone.  We can see this naturally in certain stages of your menstrual cycles if you are a woman, but when we use the term “dominance” that is when this ratio is out of balance, and potentially waking you up at night.  Men can also have estrogen dominance, this happens in cases of overweight and obesity where excess fat tissue can cause more estrogen production.  Carrying extra pounds can also contribute to estrogen dominance in women, along with genetics and even your cosmetics!  Both men and women are also exposed to estrogens from our world from all angles- called xenoestrogens.  Plastics, PVC’s, parabens and phthalates (the 5 p’s) can all contribute to rising estrogen levels.  A lack of good, healthy fiber in your diet can also boost that estrogen to out of proportion ranges as we need fiber to help us clear and process estrogen in our liver.  Check out the videos linked below to learn more and remember to: filter your water, eat 30 to 35 grams of fiber daily, buy organic produce as often as you can afford, keep alcohol to a minimum to help your liver detox, and eat a diet low in sugar.
  • High Cortisol: Cortisol, one of our prominent stress hormones, is designed to naturally fall at night, to help allow us a good nights’ sleep.  But we live in stressful times- chronic illness, trauma, work stress, relationship stress, and constant bombardment of information can all surge our cortisol at night.  Add to that the use of blue light and artificial light into our evenings after sunset, fighting our natural circadian rhythm while at the same time adding more of that potentially stressful information to our evening- well, that’s a set up for insomnia.  Even tanked out low cortisol can contribute to us feeling wired and tired and not allow us healthy, nourishing shut eye.  Here are some tips to restore your natural cortisol rhythm: cut caffeine back to less than 100 mg per day and avoid caffeine after 2 pm, cut alcohol to 3 drinks or less per week or avoid it all together, avoid using devices or watching TV within 2 hours of going to bed, and establish a regular sleep routine that involves relaxing habits like stretching, journaling or meditating.
  • Low estrogen: This one applies to women, mostly those in the later stages of perimenopause (think mid to late 40s or early 50s) when Estrogen can drop and contribute to hot flashes, night sweats and that dreaded 2 to 4 am wake up call.  If you are experiencing this then check out the video below and consider talking with your provider about supporting your low estrogen levels.  You could also try keeping the room at 68 degrees F, dressing in layers, using a “chilling” pillow, or use a personal fan.