Many women notice they feel off, cranky and groggy after a bad night's sleep. If a woman has consistently poor or inadequate sleep, her hormone levels could be thrown off. Hormones are linked to everything from the menstrual cycle and fertility to mood and motivation. Sleep allows the body to maintain healthy levels of sex and stress hormones. If a woman doesn't get enough sleep, her mental and physical health are at risk.

Sleep Affects Women’s Health

Sleep Affects Women’s Health

How Sleep and Hormones Are Intertwined

The endocrine system includes all the glands that make hormones. In women, these glands include the ovaries, thyroid, adrenals, pituitary and pancreas. The glands make estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and more. They also make growth hormone, ghrelin and leptin. The latter two control appetite. In pregnant and nursing mothers, the endocrine system produces prolactin, which controls milk production. A lack of sleep reduces the body's ability to secrete and maintain balanced hormone levels. Both the quantity and the quality of sleep play a role in hormone regulation.

Interplay of Sleep and Health

Estrogen and progesterone influence a woman's weight, mood, fertility and menstrual cycle. Cortisol affects the immune system. Insulin affects the body's ability to get nutrients from carbohydrates. Poor sleep increases cortisol and insulin responsiveness. It also throws other hormones out of balance.

Sleep and the Menstrual Cycle

Women's menstrual cycles and fertility are directly linked to the secretion of key hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone control. These hormones control ovulation and the length of the menstrual cycle. If the hormones are out-of-balance, ovulation may be delayed, or it may not happen at all. The second phase of the menstrual cycle might be too short to support implantation of a fertilized egg. Off-kilter hormone levels can make women have excessively heavy or long periods. Women with off-balance hormones may have irregular menstrual cycles. They might have a 21-day cycle one month and a 35-day cycle the next.

It's also important to note that estrogen and progesterone levels directly impact the quality of sleep. They also interact with the body's ability to produce melatonin, which is a hormone that the brain produces in order to trigger sleep. Women's health experts agree that reducing caffeine, sugar and salt can improve sleep quality. Adding more calcium may also help with hormone balance and sleep.

Sleep and Women's Moods

Disrupted sleep is a common consequence of anxiety and mood disorders. However, the situation is bi-directional. A poor mood can affect the quantity and quality of sleep, too. Women who average four to five hours of sleep per night instead of the recommended seven to eight hours report more anger, sadness and stress. They're 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Disrupted sleep also interrupts nervous system hormones called neurotransmitters. Dopamine, serotonin and GABA are a few that are directly impacted by sleep. Antidepressant drugs target those hormones and can help people with sleep and mood disorders.

Stress and Its Relationship to Sleep

A little stress is healthy and normal. When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol. This hormone makes you more alert. It can keep you up at night. High cortisol production is responsible for a majority of cases of insomnia. The more stress you have, the lower your quantity and quality of sleep. Women who report being more stressed get less sleep, and those who get low amounts of sleep also report more stress. Stress can cause relationship problems, and it can lead to chronic inflammation, weight gain and an increased risk of many chronic health problems, such as diabetes.

What Women Can Do to Improve Their Sleep

Practicing stress relief techniques, such as breathing exercises or mindfulness, may help you lower your stress and sleep better. Eating a nutritious diet and exercising every day can also lower stress. If you're sleeping on an old or uncomfortable mattress, replace it. Your bedroom should be a haven for comfort and rest. Update your bed with a hybrid mattress for luxurious comfort while supporting your body for a restful sleep. Turn your bedroom into a dark, cool and quiet sleep oasis.


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