Better Sleep -The Secret to Hormone Balance
Have you said goodbye to sleeping through the night?
Do you feel like your hormones are also out of whack?
Poor sleep and hormonal imbalances go hand in hand with each other.
Do not fear, I have some great holistic tips (and an amazing recipe) to help you improve your sleep and help get your hormones back on track.
The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated, and growing.
Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we're just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us when it is good and all of the ways it hinders our health when it is not so good.
Lack of sleep affects our bodies, mind, and spirit. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. It also impacts our moods, memory, and decision-making skills.
What many women don’t know about lack of sleep is that it can also lead to a slower metabolism, weight gain, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance.
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)
OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???
Knowing this, it's easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:
To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
To improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
To conserve some energy so we're not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.
Sleep and Hormones
You may be getting the picture that sleep deprivation is serious business for our health. One of the first things I talk about with women who are coming in to see me for fertility or hormone balance is……yes, guessed it, sleep! This is because the quality and quantity of our sleep has such a huge impact on our delicate hormone balance.
Studies have shown that just a week of getting a less than optimal amount of sleep can affect blood sugar balance. For women with PCOS, getting adequate sleep may be even more important as blood sugar dysregulation is already something women with PCOS are dealing with.
Sleep deprivation also seems to mess up our cortisol rhythm. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for helping us respond to stress appropriately. But when it’s out of balance, it can have a major effect on some of our sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. See my previous blog here for more detailed info on the effects of cortisol on hormones.
If weight gain has also been an issue for you, lack of sleep can possibly be the culprit. Studies have shown the greatest risk for obesity are with those who only get 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Additionally, sleep deprivation has been shown to lower leptin (an appetite suppressing hormone) and increase ghrelin (an appetite invigorating hormone). For a more in-depth look at leptin, see my blog post here.
Poor sleep causing issues with sugar imbalance, cortisol dysregulation, and leptin imbalance can all translate to a myriad of hormonal complaints such as: PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, sugar cravings, bloating, weight gain, infertility, menstrual cramps, and emotional swings.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Do you know how much sleep adults need? It's less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that all adults get 7 - 9 hours a night. For real!
If you are trying to conceive, aim for the same 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. A Korean study which looked at the sleep habits of women undergoing IVF found those which were moderate sleepers (7-8 hours) had a higher rate of pregnancy.
Try not to skimp!
(Don't worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)
Tips For a Better Sleep
My biggest tip is definitely to try and get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off, but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. Always eat breakfast (with protein). Also, less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (more fiber!). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice.
If you have issues waking up in the middle of the night, try eating 1 TB of nut butter or a handful of nuts before bed. Sometimes waking up is due to plummeting blood sugar levels and this trick will stabilize your blood sugar for the night.
During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day, it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Use 3-5 drops of Lavender in a diffuser at night. (I recommend DoTerra essential oils as they are therapeutic grade and pure essential oils)
Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it's the “added” sugar we're minimizing. Yes, that includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be in the evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!). If you’d like more info on why sugar and coffee may not be such good things for hormones in general, see my blogs here and here.
Do not drink alcohol before bed. You may fall asleep better with that glass of wine before bed, but alcohol is notorious for causing sleep disruptions.
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8-10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.
If you must be on your screen at night, turn off the blue light on your iphone or ipad. See here how to do that.
One of my favorite supplements for sleep is about 300-400mg of magnesium glycinate before bedtime. I also love to use Valerian root extract, passion flower, St. John’s Wort and phosphatidylserine to help sleep – it depends on the person’s body which of these may be a good fit. Consult a licensed practitioner for best dosage and use of any herbs or supplements.
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?
Recipe: Caffeine-Free Latte (for your afternoon “coffee break”)
1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
2 cups of boiling water
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
2 dates (optional)
Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender
Blend until creamy.
Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavor combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?