How Sleep And Hormone Balance Work Together
Hormones and sleep are very closely linked. Although it’s still not fully understood, it has been proven many times over that people who don’t get enough sleep, or who don’t get the right type of sleep, are much more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Premenstrual syndrome is made worse by a lack of good quality sleep, and stress is more difficult to cope with if the body doesn’t get to restore and rejuvenate through sleep.
Keeping stress hormone levels low is key for sleeping well
Keeping stress hormones low in the body is a key benefit of good sleep and it’s a major factor in maintaining healthy hormone balance. Let’s look at the ways stress (and stress hormones) affect hormone balance. The liver has the very important task of removing excess estrogen and other reproductive hormones from the blood.
Sleeplessness is both a cause and a symptom of stress
Stress hormones divert blood flow away from the liver, making estrogen excess more likely. Blood flow is also reduced to the digestive system, meaning that it’s more difficult to obtain optimum nutrition from food. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies which in turn reduce the ability to respond well to stress. It can become a perpetual cycle of stress, depletion, and more stress. Sleeplessness is tied up this cycle as both a symptom and a cause of stress.
Stress takes blood flow away from the vital organs
Blood flow is also diverted away from the reproductive organs, starving the ovaries and uterus of oxygen and nutrients. These organs won’t be functioning optimally without proper nutrition, and they may over-produce or under-produce hormones as a result. Stress hormones also cause inflammation, so the vital organs are under attack from damaging inflammatory chemicals as well as being starved of the essential blood flow that would allow them to recover from this.
Certain hormone shifts make sleeplessness worse
Sleep disorders are very common, and there are certain times of life when they are even more common. During pregnancy a woman’s hormones go through huge changes, and often it can take months or even years for the body to get back into balance after having a baby. Sleeplessness is also a symptom of menopause, as this is another time in a woman’s life when her hormones are shifting. Disruption to regular hormone patterns can affect the nervous and endocrine systems, and sleeplessness can be a difficult condition to overcome using natural sleep aids if remedies for hormone balance are not included as part of the treatment.
Treating the cause of sleeplessness is vital for natural sleep aids to work
There are many natural sleep aids that work, but when using natural remedies for insomnia, it’s important to understand the cause, so that the sleep disorder can be addressed at a deeper level, acknowledging the influence of other body systems and lifestyle factors. A sedative herb or supplement is not a replacement for prescription sleep medication, as herbs are often more gentle and more general in their effect. Let’s take a look at a couple of different sleep disorders and compare the natural sleep aids we would use for each.
Insomnia is common when going through menopause
Menopausal insomnia is associated with declining estrogen and progesterone levels, so it has a strong connection to the reproductive system. A whole body approach to this sleep disorder needs to include some remedies for hormone balance, and specifically for addressing estrogen and progesterone fluctuations. This would likely include estrogen-modulating herbs such as Wild Yam and Black Cohosh, as well as sedative herbs like Passionflower.
Experts agree that hormone balance influences sleep
Dr Marina Johnson is an endocrinologist and preventive medicine specialist in Dallas, Texas. She treats her menopausal insomniac patients by re-balancing their estrogen and progesterone levels. Her patients don’t get addicted to sleeping pills and don’t need any other sleep aids once their hormones are normalized. Dr Johnson also treats other types of insomnia and recommends practical lifestyle adjustments to support her therapies.
Using bio-identical hormones and medicinal herbs can help
The Women In Balance Institute in Portland, Oregon, is a great online resource for learning more about menopause and it’s influence on sleep. The website also helps you find a good health practitioner and teaches you the basics of hormone balance. The Women In Balance Institute takes a holistic approach to hormone balance and recommends the use of natural options and bio-identical hormones. This includes natural progesterone, melatonin and herbs such as Black Cohosh. Also vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants to reduce inflammation and remove the toxic burden your body has to work through.
Four Simple Actions You Can Take Today To Improve Sleep
1) Set Your Alarm For Bed Time
Going to bed at the same time every night helps to set your body clock to a regular pattern. You’re more likely to sleep well if your body can repeat it’s sleep-wake cycles the same every day. If you find your bed time is different every night, it can be really helpful to set your alarm to remind you to get ready for bed.
10pm is a good time to go to bed. It gives you some time to enjoy your evening, but also enough time to get the sleep you need. If you go to bed at 10pm every night, you can wake up any time after 6am and you’ve had at least eight hours rest. This should be enough to wake refreshed and ready to face the day.
2) Choose A Relaxing Evening Routine
If stress is a factor in your sleeplessness, then winding down after the day is really important. I’ve done it myself at times, where I charge about until bed time and then when I finally lie down, my mind is still racing and sleep won’t come. It’s a much better idea to stop being active at least an hour before bed. At that time, dim the lights or turn some off, and do things that you find relaxing.
Drink a calming herbal tea, read a book, watch your favorite TV show, or spend some quality time with your loved ones. A shower, bath, meditation or prayers can also help to calm the body and mind in preparation for a good sleep. Once you find a calming routine that works for you, repeat it every night. Following the same patterns of activity every evening trains your mind and body to prepare for sleep.
3) Improve Your Home Environment
Your home can have a strong influence over your sleep quality. A healthy home is dry, with an ideal room temperature of 60-68°F (16-20°C). A small amount of air flow will keep the air fresh. Keeping oxygen levels up in your bedroom will make good sleep more likely. Along with air movement, having plants in the room can help with this.
Lights should be off or very dim, because darkness encourages sleep. Turn off all electronic devices in your bedroom, especially the ones that have bright screens or make noise. A dark, quiet room that’s free from electromagnetic fields (as generated by electronics) is going to give you better quality sleep.
4) Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are a gentle, effective way of encouraging relaxation and sleep. They can be put into room diffusers, added to bath tubs, put into massage oils, and dropped on tissues that you stuff inside your pillowcase. I used to drop lavender oil on a tissue and place it in my daughter’s pillowcase every night. I also rubbed lavender massage wax into her back before she went to bed. It really made a difference to her sleep.
Apart from lavender, ylang ylang and tangerine essential oils are the key ingredients in Bountiful Bird’s Blissful Sleep Essential Oil blend. It’s a gentle, uplifting, and soothing blend that works to relax and calm the nerves. Other oils that are useful for sleep include chamomile, rose, and frankincense. You can also make up your own blends at home using your favorite oils, or follow a recipe from your favorite book or website.
Aurora graduated as a medical herbalist in 2011 with areas of interests in mental health, women’s health, and nutrition – specifically how to use nutrition in combination with herbal medicine. I have always been interested in botany and gardening, but it became full time passion (read obsession) when I realised I could use this interest to help people with herbal remedies.