I recently attended the Institute of Functional Medicine’s annual conference, which was all about a very important subject. It reinforced some basic, but crucial information when it comes to hormone balance and, ultimately, our overall health.
You see, there’s this thing we all need to help ensure blood sugar regulation, mood stabilization, and hormone health. And an estimated 50-70 million Americans don’t get enough of it.(1)
Most of us are guilty of it. Work, stress, and bad sleep hygiene lead to late nights and early mornings with not a lot of rest in between.
Sleep disorders inhibit daily function and have detrimental effects on health and longevity, including increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease. If you’re chronically fatigued and have trouble getting to or staying asleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about possible sleep dysfunction.
Less than 7 hours of sleep wreaks havoc on your health
Even short-term sleep restriction can lead to extreme health deficits including:(2)
Impaired glucose control or blood sugar dysregulation.
Blood sugar regulation is the secret to hormone balance and for many people, impaired glucose control is the gateway to chronic illness.
Leptin is a hormone that, among other things, helps regulate how much you eat and how much fat you store by sending a signal to your brain that you’re full. Leptin also has other functions relating to fertility, brain function, and immunity. Less sleep associated with reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin, which can result in increased fat storage and further hormone imbalance.
Increased circulating cortisol and activation of your sympathetic nervous system.
This is your body’s fight or flight response, which leads to increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, excess weight gain, and hormone dysfunction.
Increased systemic inflammation.
More and more research shows that chronic, low-level inflammation is at the heart of almost every chronic disease, from rheumatoid arthritis to diabetes to depression.
Elevated risks for heart disease.
Poor sleep quality is associated with coronary heart disease, which may have something to do with the increase in sympathetic nervous system activity. Fewer hours of sleep has also been associated with increased mortality from other conditions like cancer and stroke.(3)
7 Natural ways to improve sleep:
Optimize sleep hygiene.
Sleeping in a cool, quiet room that is completely dark is essential to a good night’s sleep. I also encourage you to put away all screens at least two hours before bedtime and dim the lights in your house.
Support blood sugar.
Regular balanced meals with plenty of protein and healthy fats will help to balance blood sugar. Ditch the sugar, soda, and excess processed carbohydrates for high-quality animal proteins and legumes (if your gut can handle them!). Read more about blood sugar regulation here.
Mindfulness and meditation improve sleep quality and a growing body of evidence shows that mindfulness is a preferred intervention for chronic insomnia.(4,5)
Regular and acute bouts of exercise have positive effects on sleep quality and quantity.(6)
Magnesium is a calming mineral that can be used in the evenings to help nourish the nervous system and the adrenal glands to help ease anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness, and irritability. I recommend starting with about 200 mg at bedtime of magnesium.
Passionflower is one of my favorite herbs for sleep. It’s a known sedative and helps to treat mild anxiety. It’s good if you feel tense, restless, or irritable at night.(7) Take 1-2 dropper full of passionflower glycerite 30 minutes before bed.(8) Or try 10 drops of Passiflora Plex, which is a combination of nervous system soothing herbs.
Meet with a qualified Naturopathic or Functional Medicine Doctor, engage in talk therapy, nutrition or life coaching, and even taking a good friend to lunch can help ease anxiety around sleep disturbance. Working with a qualified health practitioner to help balance blood sugar, hormones, and address any underlying conditions can get your body back to a place where it can relax. Joining a yoga studio or hiring a personal trainer can help with accountability and ease stress, which tends to exacerbate insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
I’ve helped hundreds of women create beautiful hormonal harmony and want to help you too! Get started by downloading my free hormone Ebook today!
If you’re struggling to get more than 7 hours of sleep per night, I encourage you to examine your sleep hygiene and hormones. They go hand-in-hand and you can’t address one without the other.