Did you know that women have a 40% higher risk of developing insomnia throughout their lives?! Now if you are a sleep deprived Mama, I am sure this will come as no shock! Even if you slept like a log before your journey to motherhood, sleep is often an issue for many women during this season of our lives. However, did you know your hormones play a huge role in the quality of the sleep you do manage to get?
Our hormones literally affect EVERYTHING – from cognitive function, mood management, digestion, energy levels…you get the picture, so it is no surprise that it affects our sleep.
Sleep has such a huge effect on our mental health, so it is incredibly important that we understand how to maximise the sleep we do get, within the context of the role our hormones flow throughout our lives and each month.
In our 20’s we can get away with pulling all nighters but as we age, it takes much longer to recover from sleep deprivation – as if experiencing a jet lag, as we mess with our circadian rhythm.
When we are not able to sleep properly (less than 7 hours or broken sleep), it causes a disruption to our hormones, in that it increases our stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin…as if we need more of those!!
This then cascades into the rest of our hormones, for example, less sleep increases our appetite and we tend to choose less nutritious foods….sound familiar?! The lack of energy due to sleep deprivation makes us crave the processed carbs!! This then wreaks havoc on our hormones, as we then experience sugar cravings due to the role of insulin in this vicious cycle. Our inhibitions are lowered when we are tired, making it is easy to grab the slice of cake instead of making the nutritious soup!
Everything feels harder when we are sleep deprived…
Lack of sleep causes many issues, including:
- Brain Fog
- Mood Regulation
- Blood sugar imbalances
So, what role does our menstrual cycle play in this?! Well, actually quite a big one!
Our sleep changes across our life span, as we enter different phases of our life, and is also affected at different times in our menstrual cycle.
For example, women often experience poor quality sleep during their luteal (premenstrual) phase, which is due to the decline of hormone, hence why sleep can be a challenge for women during this time. Progesterone, our “keep calm and carry on” hormone, is lowered at this time, so we can find more anxious thoughts keeping us awake at night! Hello insomnia!
Women often experience improved sleep quality during the follicular (preovulation) and ovulation (mid cycle) due to peaks in the hormone Oestrogen. This is because our body temperature is more regulated, plus we tend to be more active in this phase, so use up more energy, which makes us sleepy.
As we approach our perimenopausal season, we can become prone to more sleep disruption – again due to declining hormones, we may get hot flushes at night, need the toilet more frequently, BMI changes, mid life stressors and blood sugar fluctuations all play a role!
Whilst this all sounds fairly miserable, fear not! There is much we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.
If you find you are sleeping well but still don’t wake up feeling rejuvenated, it may be worth exploring any nutrient deficiencies or thyroid imbalances. If you do experience challenges, here are some top tips!
- Good sleep hygiene begins from the minute you wake up – take some time to ground yourself and breathe into your body before starting your day.
- Avoid caffeine after 12 pm.
- Essential oils such as Vetiver and Lavender are great for sleep.
- Good quality blue light blocker glasses for the evening.
- Take breaks throughout the day.
- Get out in daylight every day (ideally the morning).
- Brain dump before going to bed at night time.
- Keep your bedroom cool with natural fibre sleep wear.
- Avoid eating in the evening.
- Focus on deep breathing when in bed, through your nose.
- Reduce alcohol (sorry!)
- Yoga nidra – it is said that an hour of this is the equivalent to 4 hours of sleep!
- Have a consistent wake up time every day.
There is so much we can do to support our sleep and my final tip is to track your cycle (you can download a free one from my profile ). This will support you to identify where you need more support with sleep!