Everyone knows that getting enough sleep is important to our health, but we still continue to underestimate its true significance and the nefarious results of sleep deprivation.
Forty-three year old Joanne is a hard working mother of three, part-time nurse’s aide, wife and devoted daughter to a chronically ill mother. Just like every other woman, we all know Joanne never has a minute to spare during her overscheduled day.
Her nights are spent tossing and turning, worrying about how she’ll have enough time to get everything done that needs to be done. In time, less sleep has become her natural solution. As she entered her forties, less sleep became her only option. The less she slept, the more problems she developed. She started having night sweats before her periods and palpitations and anxiety at five a.m. every morning.
In spite of the symptoms and their clear connection to lack of sleep Joanne never presented this sequence of events to the doctors she saw.
She went to the doctor because she was not feeling well, but all she complained about was weight gain. Over a period of two years, she had been gaining weight in spite of a very rigid diet and exercise program. As the weight crept up Joanne became depressed. Her internist recommended she follow an even more rigid diet and even insinuated she was lying about the amount of food she ate. In her words the doctor said: “Come on Joanne, you know you are sneaking those candy bars when no one is watching! Why don’t you just eat a little less.” Joanne walked out of the doctor’s office in tears.
She saw a gynecologist for an annual check. Since she still had regular periods, the gynecologist didn’t even inquire into her symptoms. Weight problems are not often perceived as the domain of gynecology, so when Joanne complained, the doctor referred her to a psychiatrist, a nutritionist and offered a sample starter kit of Wellbutrin (an antidepressant with serious addictive attributes – see The Antidepressant Solution- Joseph Glenmullen, MD).
When I saw Joanne she was at the end of her rope. She had gained thirty pounds, all around the middle, and had read a few books on hormones (The Hormone Solution, The 30 Day Natural Hormone Plan and Hormones, Health and Happiness) that gave her the insight into the possibility that the weight gain may have been connected to her hormones.
The truth is that her weight gain was one of the reflections of her hormones being out of balance.
But even before the hormones became out of balance, Joanne’s problem really started with her lack of sleep.
Sleep is the crucial, single most important activity that will either keep you young and healthy or push us into an early grave.
When we are young our bodies repair themselves quickly. A few hours of sleep will offer us a renewed set of hormones for the next day. As we get older, the less time we have to sleep, the less we will sleep. And the less we sleep the more hormone problems we will develop.
Joanne is the perfect example of how lack of sleep creates a domino effect of hormonal imbalance, weight gain, fatigue and depression. Conventional medicine doesn’t have a clue of this sequence and no conventional doctor will ever spend ten minutes making these naturally logical and life saving connections for you.
I tested Joanne’s bloodwork and after a thorough evaluation placed her on bioidentical hormones. I started her on Estradiol, a micronized progesterone combination in a cycled format, because she still had a regular period. I also started her on supplemental Armour Thryoid, since her thyroid was getting burned out from lack of sleep.
Over a period of six weeks, Joanne started to feel more balanced and as we worked together to balance her life, sleep became a priority.
Once Joanne made the connection between sleep, feeling better, loosing weight and thus feeling less depressed, she found her life falling into a gentler balance that translated into significant weight loss and an improved sense of wellbeing.
We are all very much like Joanne so take her message to heart. It will serve you well.
1.Sleep. Make sure you get 6-8 hours a night.
2.Make up for it if you cannot do it every night. You can catch up on weekends.
3.If symptoms of hormone imbalance stop you from getting good quality sleep, get bioidentical hormones and have your thyroid checked.
Do not skimp on sleep. Make it sacred! Your quality of life will improve.,