How Hormones Affect Sleep

Hormone issues are on the rise and many of us don’t know where to start when it comes to recognizing symptoms and what to do about them. There are many factors to consider when it comes to hormone balance; including stress levels, environmental factors, thyroid function, dietary habits, liver function and more.

I receive a lot of complaints around sleep. People may not be able to fall asleep, or stay asleep, may be too hot or too cold, or may not feel relaxed enough to allow themselves to rest deeply. Hormones absolutely come to play when it comes to sleep.  With that in mind, without doing a brain scan, when someone comes to me with sleep issues I look at 4 main areas:

  1. Adrenal dysfunction
  2. Underactive thyroid
  3. Lack of melatonin & serotonin production
  4. Nutrient deficiencies, such as electrolytes such as Magnesium and B Vitamins

People are unable to properly recover when their sleep is compromised. Lack of sleep leads to increased cortisol, increased ghrelin (hunger hormone), decreased serotonin and GABA production.  This will leave someone in an endless loop of catch up and not feeling their best.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the most common causes of sleep dysfunction.

ADRENAL function

The adrenal glands sit right above your kidneys and they have many functions.  They produce hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in response to stress and act as your backup hormone system.  When the adrenals are producing too much cortisol you will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  When they are producing too little cortisol you may find that you fall asleep fine but wake up several hours later wide awake.  When we are overly stressed our adrenal function is compromised. Stress comes in many shapes and sizes and could be from too much work, boredom, ‘busyness’’, environmental, emotional, and physical factors to name a few.  So how do we show our adrenal glands some love?   Deep breathing, vacations and yoga are great but sometimes we need a little extra help.  Both herbs and nutrients are key to restoring adrenal function. There are 4 ADAPTOGENIC herbs that I absolutely LOVE which are Rhodiola, Sensoril Ashwaghanda, Suma and Schisandra berries.

THYROID function: The thyroid is the body’s master conductor and when it is ‘’off’’ underactive or overactive, every function in your body becomes affected.  Because thyroid hormones are involved in so many bodily processes, when they are low you can have both daytime and nighttime symptoms, including fatigue during the day and poor sleep at night.  Besides causing daytime fatigue by slowing metabolism, hypothyroidism increases risk for some sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.  Thyroid hormones are produced predominantly in sleep and in the morning, and if sleep is chronically “screwed up”, and stress hormone levels are too high this will put the brakes on your thyroid function and your overall health.  To support thyroid hormone production use herbs and nutrients that aid in production as well as act as important catalysts in conversion of T4 into active T3 hormones.

Melatonin production

As we age our melatonin production decreases.  We are now seeing issues among all ages with melatonin production due to overuse of artificial lighting, blue screens, phones and TVs.  Also all flashing and beeping electronic devises.   Take a melatonin supplement, and be diligent with turning off all electrical devises in your room, keep the room pitch black, wear an eye mask and stop screen time after 8pm or at least 2 hours before sleep.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is required for over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body.  When it comes to sleep, we need magnesium to help us relax.  Magnesium also helps our adrenal glands function better.  Take a magnesium bisglycinate supplement like MAGsmart a few hours before bed and you will melt into your sheets under the covers.

A shout out to progesterone.  J Finally if we have tried all that I will sometimes recommend someone try bio-identical Progesterone as a prescription from their doctor.  For example prometrium can be used short term as the body’s adrenals heal and are able to produce this hormone again.


Insight from nutritionist Angela Ysseldyk, author of How to Glow and colleague of Lorna Vanderhaeghe.

To dig deeper into hormone related issues check out www.healthyimmunity.com