Hormones and Sleep

We’ve probably all heard of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and how important that natural
substance is to a sound night’s rest. However, other hormones are at work when we sleep, doing things like repairing cells and regulating body fat. If these hormones, which include noradrenalin, seratonin, dopamine and others, are out of balance, our bodies won’t benefit from the full cycle of rest, rejuvenation and repair that should occur during sleep.

Hormonal imbalance can come about because we don’t follow good sleep-hygiene habits and thus cheat ourselves out of a full and sound sleep experience.

If you follow this blog even a tiny bit, you probably already know that you should avoid lights from any source while you’re sleeping or trying to fall asleep because light will interfere with your body’s production of melatonin. And you probably also know that it’s not a good idea to eat too close to bedtime, or to drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages before beddy-bye.

But other habits can also interfere with your hormones and thus your sleep. For instance, watching TV, surfing the Web or playing electronic games for too long increase the stimulating hormones noradrenaline and dopamine, which can hamper your ability to fall asleep. For another, exercising at night can retard melatonin production and increase the levels of noradrenaline, dopamine and cortisol, which stimulate brain activity and thus make it harder to fall asleep.

Sleeping in a room that’s 70 degrees or higher in temperature also poses difficulties
because your body needs to cool down at night. Without this cooling-down process,
melatonin and growth-hormone release is disrupted, which means you won’t burn fat while
you sleep or benefit from nighttime repair of your bones, skin and muscles.

Even how you get up in the morning can affect your hormonal balance and thus your
vitality and mood throughout the day. When you arise, you want to get back into the light to lower your melatonin level. If your melatonin level stays too high[ because you’re still in a darkened environment, the melatonin can lower serotonin, leading to depression, anxiety and cravings througout the day. When you awake, it’s time to greet the day.

Staying up too late or into the wee hours can also wreak havoc. If you stay up too late, it increases cortisol, decreases leptin and depletes your growth hormone. According to Dr. Natasha Turner, author of The Super-Charged Hormone Diet, “Cortisol naturally begins to increase during the second half of your sleep — a small boost at 2 a.m., another at 4 a.m., and the peak at around 6 a.m. If you’re just getting to bed immediately beforehand, you’re missing out on your most restful period of sleep.”

Finally, you need between seven and eight hours of good sleep a night. The American
Cancer Association found higher incidences of cancer in individuals who routinly slept six hours or less or nine hours or more a night. Other research shows that people who sleep between seven and seven-and-a-half hours a night tend to live longer.

So, your sleep is vital to your health and well-being. Not only should you adopt sound
sleep-hygiene habits, but you should also seek professional help if your best efforts still result in poor sleep at night.

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