Do you simply lie on the bed until morning without catching a good night’s sleep? Do you stare at the ceiling all night? You shut your eyes hoping to catch some sleep before the day breaks but nothing works. This kind of insomnia really compounds a person’s stress level; especially women because they know they are tired, they have to get up early in the morning, send kids to school and have to go office! A lot of things to do, Ahh! This creates more fatigue, greater stress and continued sleep disturbance. It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken to begin the healing process. How?
There are 88 known sleep disorders – from apnea to restless leg syndrome, and as women, you’ve got many more reasons to insomnia – they’re your hormones. Therefore, they say it -Women suffer from sleep problems twice as much as men. Women’s sleep is particularly affected by hormones. Hormonal changes that occur during polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms (PCOS), menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause symptoms can have profound effects on sleep.
Poor sleep quality is associated with depression, pain, illness, decrease of cognitive function, hallucinations and difficulty in performing tasks that require prolonged concentration. Sleep deprivation can inhibit the production of hormones and offset their effects on the body; however, symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as night sweats, hot flushes and sleep apnea can significantly disrupt the quality of sleep.
Studies have shown that hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle can interfere with sleep quality for an average of 2-3 days per monthly cycle for some healthy young women. The most marked disturbances generally occur during the first few days of menstruation and in the 1-2 weeks leading up to menstrual cycle, when oestrogen is low and the basal body temperature is raised. This leads to an increased melatonin production, causing sleepiness during the day.
Melatonin is involved in regulating your sleep pattern. The amino-acid tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin and melatonin. Vitamins B6, B3 and magnesium help convert tryptophan to serotonin. Thus, low levels of vitamin B3, B6, magnesium and tryptophan can hinder a good night sleep. Coffee has been shown to negatively influence the synthesis of melatonin, thus interfering with sleep. Try not having coffee after mid-afternoon to improve your sleep.
This is interesting to know that oestrogen is associated with good quality sleep. This may be why most women have no problem sleeping during the first two weeks of their cycle. Oestrogen excess, such as seen in endometriosis, fibroids, and PCOS, however, may adversely affect the quality of sleep, just as well as too little such as seen with menopause symptoms. Hence, achieving the right balance should be your main goal.
Another interesting hormone which affects your sleeping pattern is Progesterone. It is produced during ovulation. It is linked with increased serotonin and thus melatonin levels. During ovulation, women often experience a good quality sleep. After ovulation, however, there is a rise and fall in progesterone levels, and not surprisingly sleep follows that same pattern and becomes less refreshing. Low progesterone levels are often seen in endometriosis and fibroids due to oestrogen dominance and progesterone resistance; and in PCOS due to lack of ovulation. During menopause, progesterone levels drop as ovulation becomes erratic, and this can start interfering with a good night’s rest.
Many women also experience restless legs at night and have difficulty sleeping, but few are aware that their hormones could be causing this. Restless leg syndrome is linked to low dopamine levels and low iron levels. Considering iron is essential for the synthesis of dopamine, it is not surprising that low iron levels can lead to low dopamine. Low dopamine, in turn, is associated with low progesterone, bringing us back to low progesterone levels being a cause of poor sleep.
Another important factor is ‘Stress’, which is a familiar term for all of us. When triggered to a certain level, it doesn’t allow us to sleep.
Cortisol is known as a stress hormone because it is released by the adrenals in response to stress (whether that is physical or emotional stress). Cortisol inhibits melatonin production. However, low cortisol levels also interfere with sleep as it can trigger the release of adrenalin.
What can you do to improve your sleep?
To restore a healthy, good quality sleep, it is important to assess the underlying causes – do you need to improve progesterone and melatonin levels, reduce oestrogen excess, reduce stress hormones, or correct nutritional deficiencies? Once the cause is established, there is homeopathy which can help you achieve good quality sleep on regular basis. Visit your nearest homeopath and identify the right cause for your problem to get the solution.
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