You've probably heard before that hormones are linked to most of our bodies’ basic functions, but did you know they have a close relationship with sleep? Hormones can help your body relax and lull your mind to sleep. Inversely, the quality of your sleep can influence the types of hormones that are released, their timing and quantities. This means that it is a good idea to look at your hormones to understand your sleep patterns and how they affect your daily life as well.
Hormonal changes occur during our lives, both in men and women, and they are influenced by several factors, one of which is age. These changes, in turn, tend to affect your quantity and quality of sleep.
For instance, if you lead a very stressful life, your body will produce higher amounts of cortisol and cortisone, both of which are linked to insomnia. Likewise, if you're very excited, you may be “high” on adrenaline and thus more alert, which means you will have a harder time falling asleep.
On the other hand, hormones like melatonin are released when it gets dark. The function of this hormone is to tell your body that it is time to sleep, so it should get more relaxed and sleepy. It is for this reason that melatonin is the main ingredient used in natural sleeping aid medications. This is also why being exposed to bright lights (from electronic gadgets including) while in bed can keep you from sleeping, as melatonin isn’t released if it isn’t dark.
Hormonal cycles and imbalances affect the sleep of both men and women. In women, sleep quality can be linked directly to the phases of menstrual cycles. In men, sleep is primarily linked to high levels of testosterone, which means they can lose sleep quality if their levels of testosterone are low.
It is important to note, though, as it has already been mentioned, that sleep also affects the release of hormones, as a lot of them have their main release time at night. The growth hormone, for instance, is released mainly while we sleep, and it helps our body recover from daily activity. Prolactin is also released while your body rests, and it is responsible for reinforcing your immune system and keeping you healthy.
Other hormones that are released in the night are insulin, which is responsible for your morning appetite, and cortisol, which helps our body prepare for the challenges of the day ahead.
Getting less sleep than normal can leave you stressed, tired, and more vulnerable to diseases. It is thus important to keep your hormones in balance and always try your best to have quality sleep each night.