Sleep is indispensable for the psychological and physiological regeneration of humans. However, about 40% of Germans suffer from sleep disorders(insomnia), and those affected are mainly women. This may be due to hormone imbalance.
Why is sleep important?
Germans sleep an average of 7 hours and 14 minutes per night, but any sleep duration between 5 and 9 hours is considered normal. Accordingly, it varies from individual to individual how high the need for sleep is and how much sleep is appropriate. For optimal recovery, however, it is not the duration of sleep but the quality of sleep, especially the time of deep sleep, that is decisive. This is because the regulation of certain hormones only takes place during deep sleep. During this time, the level of stress hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine drops. At the same time, growth hormones such as melatonin and prolactin are released. These stimulate cell renewal and ensure beautiful skin, improved hair growth, optimal wound healing, increase in muscle strength and bone growth. If deep sleep is lacking over a longer period of time, the skin becomes thinner and wrinkles become deeper. In addition, risks for obesity increase. Restful sleep is crucial not only for beauty, but also for health, because the immune system can only regenerate during deep sleep. Sleep is also essential for the psyche, because during sleep everything experienced during the day is processed, new information is consolidated and stored.
The quality of sleep affects the overall quality of life. In the case of chronic sleep deficiency, one is constantly tired and exhausted, one feels drained, irritable and unable to cope with stress. The lack of restful sleep impairs performance and, in the medium or long term, can also lead to the worsening or recurrence of diseases. Thus, sleep disorders and the associated lack of sleep can also lead to serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. As a result, life expectancy even decreases!
Women are affected by sleep disorders significantly more often than men. In general, young women have healthier sleep than older women, because physical and hormonal changes that women experience during their lives directly affect sleep quality. Physical factors here can include respiratory problems or hot flashes, for example. But emotional factors such as stress, anxiety and depression also negatively affect sleep quality. As the female body is subject to strong hormonal fluctuations, it is hardly surprising that sleep requirements and sleep regulation also fluctuate. In addition to sleep disturbances during pregnancy and menopause, sleep problems associated with menstruation are also frequently reported. For example, healthy women generally experience postovulatory sleep disturbances in the form of nocturnal awakenings and frequent, more intense dreaming. Others, however, report increased daytime fatigue, states of exhaustion, and a generally increased need for sleep. These sleep disturbances are usually accompanied by other premenstrual signs and subside after menstruation.
The role of progesterone
If restless sleep or sleep problems are menstrual, this is often due to the change in hormone levels in the second half of the cycle. After ovulation, the corpus luteum hormone progesterone is secreted to protect against possible pregnancy, but the hormone also has a sleep-inducing effect. If the progesterone level drops again before menstruation, the sleep-supporting effect also decreases noticeably. Progesterone plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and fertility. In addition, progesterone is a kind of counterpart of estrogen. Both must be present in the body in a certain ratio to each other so that the hormones are in harmonious balance with each other. In many women, however, too little progesterone is produced. This leads to estrogen having too strong an effect; it is dominant, so to speak. This so-called estrogen dominance can also be the cause of a sleep disorder. It is already known that the hormonal IUD can cause a progesterone deficiency by suppressing the body’s own progesterone. In many cases, this can also lead to estrogen dominance, which is the main cause of many side effects of the hormonal IUD, including insomnia.
What helps with sleep disorders?
If no tangible triggers such as stress, an infection, hormone imbalance, etc. can be found for acutely occurring sleep problems, it is important to identify other causes, especially if the sleep disorders persist for a longer period. Of course, if there are underlying conditions, it is advisable to treat the underlying conditions first. Sometimes better sleep hygiene alone can resolve a sleep disorder. For example, the bedroom should be adequately ventilated and the temperature should not be too high. Late heavy meals, coffee and alcohol should be avoided. Fixed rituals and relaxation and mindfulness exercises before bedtime can also be helpful. “Digital detox,” avoiding digital devices such as smartphones, computers and televisions before bed, as well as darkness, can help promote healthy sleep. Medicinal plants such as lavender, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower are also helpful for sleep disorders.
By the way, medical professionals don’t call it a sleep disorder until you can’t find continuous, restful sleep three nights or more a week for at least a month and feel tired, powerless, nervous and irritable during the day. Also, if you feel like you’re sleeping well but are constantly tired during the day, this may be an indication of disturbed sleep. In these cases, a doctor should always be consulted first.
By the way: You can also check your sleep quality with OvulaRing. A healthy and restful night’s sleep is characterized by a significant drop in temperature at night.