Are Your Hormones Causing Sleep Issues?

October 5th, 2016 by Loretta Lanphier, NP, BCTN, CN, CH, HHP

Are Your Hormones Causing Sleep Issues?

Have difficulty at night getting healthy sleep? Spending several hours in bed without falling asleep? Continually watching the clock? Believe it or not, millions of people experience sleep issues every night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are much more likely to report deep sleep issues. While there can be many reasons why one is experiencing sleep issues, understanding the connections between hormones and sleep issues may provide you with some answers and improve your own sleep and well-being.

A 2012 review published by The Lancet found that nearly a quarter of adults are unhappy with their sleep patterns, while up to 10 percent meet the criteria for full-fledged insomnia — putting them at a greater risk for depression, hypertension and diabetes.

If you are a woman between the ages of 40 and 70, sleep issues are most often caused by hormone imbalance. It’s that “time of life” when hormones either begin to naturally fluctuate or actually become imbalanced with our toxic environment being a huge culprit. Toxic xenoestrogens are one of the main culprits found in our food, water, personal care products, and cleaning products.

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Sleep issues are one of the complaints that I hear most from pre-and post-menopausal women. Sleep deprivation can affect hormone levels creating a vicious cycle that can affect every part of life. Symptoms from sleep issues can include irritability, moodiness, less energy, extreme tiredness, depression, difficulty in getting up in the mornings, and an overall lack of enjoying life. While many, including some practitioners, would say just take an over-the-counter sleeping pill, there is much more that needs to be considered if hormones are the culprit of sleepless nights.

Not being able to get a good night’s sleep is a common problem as we age, but menopausal women in particular tend to be up at all hours, pacing the house, cleaning the kitchen floor, surfing the Internet or through endless infomercials on late night TV. I hate to sound like a broken record, but in many cases it’s simply a matter of estrogen dominance, a problem easily solved with a little progesterone cream. Dr. John R. Lee

Why You Need Restful Sleep

When you experience restful sleep, especially between the hours of 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM, your body is repairing, detoxifying, regulating hormones, correcting chemical imbalances, adjusting blood sugar levels, storing and managing memories as well as doing other “system repairs”.

In order for your body to accomplish this repair work, your brain must go through four levels of sleep cycles called rapid eye movement (REM). The second and third levels are the most important because that’s when the body is in its most restful and restorative state. If your body does not spend enough time in REM sleep each night, this can actually lead to hormonal imbalance, delayed ovulation, or irregular or absent menstrual cycles.

Also, in order for your body to do and complete nightly repair work, you should be in bed by 10:30 PM, at the latest. Long nights under the lights of your TV or computer can actually deprive the body of doing needed repairs which can then cause hormone imbalances.

Check Out These Common Causes of Sleep Issues

Before we put the entire blame on hormones let’s take a look at a few other things that could be causing sleepless nights.

  • Food Intolerances/Allergies.
  • Sugar before bedtime.
  • Prescription/Over-the-Counter Drugs – Often insomnia is a side effect.
  • Caffeine.
  • Energy drinks.
  • Too much alcohol.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Worry/Anxiety.
  • Melatonin deficiency.
  • Taking sleeping pills which can actually cause insomnia.
  • Not getting enough natural light (sunshine) throughout the day.

I mention these common causes because they can make the hormonal causes of sleep issues more intense.

The Main Hormone Culprits: Estrogen and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Did you know that estrogen can be called an excitotoxin? Estrogen can stimulate the brain so much that women who use too much estrogen can actually go through not only bad withdrawal but also depression, especially if it is suddenly discontinued. This is one reason why estrogen should never be given without the balancing effect provided by natural progesterone.

By definition, endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system (the system that keeps our bodies in balance, maintains homeostasis, and guides proper growth and development) and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. According to The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences a wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption. These substances include pharmaceuticals, dioxin, and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.

Related: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – What You Need to Know

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can

  1. Mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation. Also known as xenoestrogens.
  2. Pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are developing. In animals, adverse consequences, such as subfertility, premature reproductive senescence, and cancer, are linked to early exposure, but they may not be apparent until much later in life.
  3. Bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly. Examples of chemicals that block or antagonize hormones are anti-estrogens and anti-androgens.
  4. Interfere or block the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled, for example, by altering their metabolism in the liver.

Estrogen Dominance

It has been said estrogen dominance most likely affects one-half of the women in the United States – perhaps more. The term “estrogen dominance” was coined by John R Lee, MD, and is described as a condition where a woman can have deficient, normal, or excessive estrogen, but has little or no progesterone to balance estrogen effects in the body. Even a woman with low estrogen levels can have estrogen dominance symptoms if her progesterone levels are very low. But what is even more important is the ratio between estrogen and progesterone levels which is different from one woman to another woman. In other words, there are many possible scenarios of estrogen/progesterone ratios.

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  1. Environmental hormones that mimic estrogen can create “estrogen dominance” and an overall imbalance in the endocrine system. When stressed, the body works to produce higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for managing stress. Because progesterone is the precursor to cortisol, when cortisol levels increase, progesterone levels decrease, causing progesterone deficiency. Since so many people live very stressful lives, it’s no wonder that we are seeing tremendous increases in hormonal imbalance. – specifically low progesterone levels.
  1. Estrogen dominance can also occur from the use of estrogens from horses or chemically modified estrogens. These have very potent estrogenic effects and are especially concerning if there is no (calming) progesterone being given at the same time to balance off the (excitatory) estrogen. Unopposed estrogen is a common cause of estrogen dominance. Progestins are chemical substances whose effects are similar to progesterone but act differently from the progesterone that the body naturally makes because they are chemically different. The body is unable to convert progestins into cortisol to help the adrenals or convert them into any other hormonal compounds as we could with bio-identical progesterone.

Symptoms of estrogen dominance can include

  • bloating
  • swelling and tenderness in the breasts
  • decreased sex drive
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • headaches
  • mood swings
  • fibrocystic developments in the breast
  • weight gain
  • hair loss
  • cold hands or feet
  • feeling tired or lacking energy
  • difficulty with memory
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or PMS

Did You Know? Hormones May Influence Dreams

Finally, research suggests that your hormones may affect your dreams. As you sleep, your hormones, including levels of oxytocin (a neurohormone) and cortisol, may even influence the content of your dreams. A study from the University of the West of England suggests that changes in female body temperature, caused by the monthly cycle, are at the root of particularly colorful dreams.

By doing things to promote restful sleep, such as reducing stress levels, going to bed early and at the same time every night, turning off digital devices a couple of hours before bed, and dimming lights early in the evening, we can encourage the natural repairing and refreshing activities of our hormones which in turn helps to optimize our health and well-being.

Research and Reference

  1. Van Cauter E, Tasali E. Endocrine physiology in relation sleep and sleep disturbances. In: Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and practice of sleep disorders. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier and Saunders; 2011:291-311.
  2. Buxon OM, Spiegel K, Van Cauter E. Modulation of endocrine function and metabolism by sleep and sleep loss. In: Lee-Chiong TL, Sateia MJ, Carskadon MA, eds. Sleep Medicine. Philadelphia, Pa: Hanley and Belfus; 2002:59-69.
  3. Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Colten HR and Altevogt BM (ed.), Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
  4. Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Colten HR and Altevogt BM (ed.), Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
  5. Buckley TM, Schatzberg AF. On the interactions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sleep: normal HPA axis activity and circadian rhythm, exemplary sleep disorders. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90:3106-3114
  6. Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Colten HR and Altevogt BM (ed.), Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
  7. Massimiliano de Zambotti, Adrian R. Willoughby, Stephanie A. Sassoon, Ian M. Colrain, and Fiona C. Baker. Menstrual Cycle-Related Variation in Physiological Sleep in Women in the Early Menopausal Transition. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, June 2015 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2015-1844
Loretta Lanphier is a Naturopath Practitioner, Board Certified Traditional Naturopath, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner, and Certified Clinical Herbalist as well as the CEO / Founder of Oasis Advanced Wellness in The Woodlands TX. She has studied and performed extensive research in health science, natural hormone balancing, anti-aging techniques, nutrition, natural medicine, weight loss, herbal remedies, and non-toxic cancer support, and is actively involved in researching new natural health protocols and products.  A 22-year stage 3 colon cancer survivor, Loretta is able to relate to both sides of the health coin as a patient and practitioner when it comes to health and wellness. “My passion is counseling others about what it takes to keep the whole body healthy using natural and non-toxic methods.” Read Loretta’s health testimony Cancer: The Path to Healing. Loretta is a Contributor and Editor of the worldwide E-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness. Check out Oasis Advanced Wellness and our natural skin care site Oasis Serene Botanicals.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.









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