Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Hormonal Balance

Hormonal Balance

Homonal BalanceMany people think they are not sleeping well because of stress or other reasons, but it may be because of your hormones. Changes in hormone levels as we age can cause sleep disturbances, and sleep disturbances can alter hormone levels, turning into a vicious cycle.

Sleeplessness can affect around 10 different hormones, and shifts in these hormones can cause changes in appetite, mental wellbeing, cardiac health and even fertility.

Melatonin has already been mentioned earlier regarding its importance in getting a good night’s sleep, but there are other hormones that can also affect how we sleep.

Sex hormones

Out of balance oestrogen and progesterone levels can cause disturbed sleep, and this can occur just before a period, in the years before menopause known as perimenopause, and during and after menopause.

It’s not surprising that in many sleep surveys, twice as many women as men were found to have sleep problems, and further analysis may have shown that many of these women are 40 or over. This is not only because of social reasons such as having children, but because the changes in hormone levels in the years before menopause can cause insomnia as well as many other symptoms.

Whether or not the increased rates of insomnia as we grow older are due to hormonal changes is yet to be proven, however there are many factors that support this.

  • Progesterone levels drop dramatically during perimenopause and low levels of progesterone can cause insomnia
  • Serotonin is converted in the body into melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Serotonin levels decrease during perimenopause and menopause
  • Deep sleep is associated with release of human growth hormone (HGH) and as we grow older we produce less HGH

Remedies for perimenopausal and menopausal insomnia:

  • Progesterone and oestrogen levels need to be checked by your GP, and if low discuss natural remedies to increase levels of these hormones such as progesterone creams or pessaries (you’ll have to be quite insistent with your GP, and don’t settle for a prescription for sleeping pills)
  • Eat tryptophan-rich foods to boost serotonin levels, though in the presence of carbohydrates to boost absorption (see step 4)
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar which lower dopamine levels (like serotonin, dopamine is another neurotransmitter important in regulating the sleep cycle).

Other ways that hormones that can affect sleep:


An overactive thyroid can cause excess thyroid hormone which can speed up your metabolism, making you overactive and restless during the day, and can also make it difficult to settle down to sleep at night. An underactive thyroid leads to decreased levels of thyroid hormones which can cause fatigue, weakness, lack of energy and sleepiness during the day. You can check your thyroid by a simple blood test at your GP’s surgery.


Cortisol levels start to rise in early morning and continue to rise into the early morning and early waking hours. The peak in cortisol is about 9am, and as the day continues levels decline gradually. With the onset of sleep cortisol continues to decline, however a stressful lifestyle can keep cortisol levels high, which can inhibit sleep.

Puberty and adolescence

The combination of increased hormone levels, growth spurts, secondary school, active lifestyles, homework, social activity and late nights can all combine to interfere with the body clock and cause disturbed sleep. Around 11 percent of adolescents experience insomnia, but the good news is that making some of the changes recommended in this book, in particular to the bedroom and lifestyle, can go a long way to alleviating the problem and achieving better sleep.

Good diet and an active lifestyle are also important in ensuring that a teenager and young adult enjoys quality sleep.


  • Hormonal fluctuations in the years before menopause can cause disturbed sleep, low progesterone levels can cause sleeplessness, and an overactive thyroid can cause sleep problems so if you’re menopausal or perimenopausal get your hormone levels checked by your GP (and don’t settle for a prescription for sleeping pills)
  • A stressful lifestyle can keep cortisol levels high and cause sleeplessness
  • Adolescents and young adults need to follow good sleep guidelines with regard to bedroom and lifestyle to help prevent disturbed sleep

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