When it comes to getting to sleep, a lot of people tend to think it is the result of having a tried brain of because they lacking energy. This might be true to some extent but, in reality, there is another underlying cause to why you fall asleep. Sleep is heavily affected by hormones that are flowing around the body. These hormones are the key to falling asleep and you need to have them activating at the right time if you want a good night’s rest.
There are a number of hormones associated with sleep but some are more helpful than others. In fact, there are a number of hormones that will stop you from sleeping and these have been associated with symptoms of insomnia.
Regardless of this, there is no doubt about the fact that hormones are heavily influential when it comes to falling into a dream. To aid your understanding when it comes to sleep and hormones, we have performed some research and have written this article. It will go through the hormones that affect sleep and why they’re important. If you’re looking to learn more, continue to read this article.
Which Hormone is the Most Important?
When it comes to sleeping there is a range of hormones that can both aid and ruin a night’s rest. Among all of the hormones of influence, there is one that stands out the most and it is essential if we want to fall asleep. The hormone I am referring to is known as melatonin and it has also been called the “sleep hormone” in academic literature. This hormone is the primary hormone that influences our sleep and works according to our circadian rhythms. At a certain point in the day, the melatonin will release and, at this point, the body will begin to relax and sleep.
Facts about Melatonin
- Melatonin is a very important hormone and provide the body with a range of benefits and functions. The hormone itself is released from the pineal gland, which is the main gland in the brain that affects hormone distribution around the body. The pineal gland itself is also primarily responsible for the sleeping.
- The hormone itself is considered a natural pacemaker and can help to adjust your internet clock according to environmental cues. The hormone is very clever can knows the time of day as well as the associated season. Although most people won’t think it, your body is a very clever mechanism.
- When someone can’t sleep, it can sometimes be the result of the levels of melatonin. This is a common issue with individuals working shift work, especially night shift works. As a result of this, many people will take melatonin supplements in order to get some shut-eye. The issue with melatonin supplements is, if used too much, can affect the natural production of the hormone leading to a dependency.
- One of the main ways that melatonin is produced is through the current lighting of the environment. The can recognize when there is sun outside and will encourage different bodily functions accordingly. When the sun goes down and it starts to get dark, the body will enter a different state and melatonin will being to flow. However, with developments in technology, if you stare a screen emitting blue light before bedtime you will have a hard time producing the correct sleeping hormones.
- While melatonin will help you get to sleep, it has been found that the hormone doesn’t govern how well you’ll sleep. Even if you take supplements you may still have a bad night and won’t get quality sleep. Which has been stressed as more important than sleep quantity.
Other Hormones and Their Effects
Although melatonin is one of the most important sleep hormones when it comes to actually getting to sleep there are a range of other hormones that release during and after sleep. They all have a different purpose and will combine to ensure you have a high-quality sleep. Here are a few hormones and their effects.
Stops Us Getting Hungry – Cortisol, Ghrelin, Leptin, Insulin and Prolactin
Have you ever wondered why you can fall asleep and not wake up feeling incredibly hungry mid-way through the night? We tend to go throughout the day feeling hungry all the time but, somehow, we can last for 8+ hours without getting food. Well, this is the result of our hormones and quite a lot, to be honest. When it comes to suppressing our appetites during sleep, 5+ hormones are involved. These include cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, insulin, and prolactin.
The hormones in this list that are directly associated with appetite suppression are ghrelin and leptin. These make sure you don’t get up and eat halfway through the night. Also, when you wake up you may suddenly feel very hungry – this is the result of insulin and cortisol which get you hungry and ready for the day. Finally, if you get less sleep, your immunity will become weak because your prolactin levels will be off balance, resulting in carbohydrate cravings through the day.
Stops Us Wetting the Bed – Aldosterone and Antidiuretic
You may have also thought to yourself why you don’t get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. This is, again, the result a bodily hormone preventing your urine from leaking out. The hormones in charge of this operation are known as aldosterone and antidiuretic. Higher levels of these hormones help to suppress urination during sleep. These hormones are not very high when we are young, hence the reason young individuals often wet the bed.
Help Us Wake up – Cortisol
All most of us will have an alarm to help us wake up, it would become useless if we didn’t have our hormones helping us out. Bodily hormones are released in order to encourage us to wake up. It is actually the same hormone that makes us hungry when we wake up. This hormone I am referring to is known as cortisol. This hormone begins to flow around the body gradually throughout the night, getting more prevalent as the morning approaches. Cortisol peaks just as we wake up, giving us energy and appetite. The hormone is produced by the adrenal gland and if it is not produced you will feel sluggish throughout the day.
Influence Our Dreams – Cortisol and Oxytocin
There is also evidence that the hormones produced during sleep help influence our dreams. Although there is little evidence on this, the main hormones associated include cortisol and oxytocin (the love hormone).
Gender Specific Hormone Changes
Although all individuals share similarities when it comes to hormones and sleep, there are a few differences associated with different genders. Men and women have different hormone activations when they sleep and, for women specifically, it can vary depending on the time of the month. There are the main hormonal differences that are experienced in men and women.
The hormone changes in men are associated with testosterone, which naturally more prevalent in men than it is women. Testosterone actually peaks when a male is sleeping and is at its highest in the middle of the night. It only requires three hours of sleep for testosterone to reach it optimal level. If you are not getting enough sleep as a male you will have lower levels of testosterone. This can lead to a range of problems that have been related to aging and other physical problems. Testosterone supplements are often used to counter this but abuse of such drugs can lead to further issues.
For women, a lot of hormonal changes are related to their menstrual cycle. When a woman is about to have her period, the body will have a hormonal change and this can result in a number of annoying and unpleasant changes to sleeping patterns. In particular, when you’re about to have your period, the hormone known as progesterone will drop and this has a negative effect on REM sleep – the deepest level of sleep. Some women who have more severe hormonal changes will experiences lower levels of melatonin which can lead to insomnia, harder wake-ups, and daytime sleepiness. Pregnancy also has effects with the high levels of estrogen, leading to blocked nasal passageways and snoring.
How to Fix Sleep Problems Associated with Hormones
It can be very difficult to change the way your hormones release before, during and after sleep. The main way that is suggested by doctors is to try and correct your sleeping pattern to encourage a high-quality sleep. If you can start to set patterns in your routine the patterns will occur in your body also. If you are failing to keep a tight sleep schedule, failing to produce certain hormones in the process, you may need to start taking supplements. Don’t get dependent on these, however, as they can start to prevent your body from producing the hormone naturally. Take them as a last resort and consult your doctor for further advice.
Hormones have a huge influence on the quality of your sleep. If you have a number of imbalances you may have a hard time getting sufficient shut-eye. The most important hormone out of them all is melatonin because, without it, you won’t be able to fall asleep at all, making the other hormones useless. During sleep, there are a number of other hormones interacting and flowing to help with sleep quality and wake-up cycles. Maintaining a health hormone balance and if at any point you struggle with hormone production, you may need to take supplements.