If you pay attention to TV commercials, then you get an idea about what catches America’s attention. Weight loss, depression, heartburn, constipation and insomnia pretty much top the list right along with America’s love life (or lack thereof). Throw in the occasional toenail fungus, excess mucus and those who don’t “enjoy the go,” and you can see how corporate America hopes to earn a buck. Some of these issues are serious to be sure. However, by paying attention to diet and hormonal health, most of the aforementioned maladies would all but cease to exist. A big one is sleep.
Sleep is needed for physical and emotional health and is important to maintain optimal brain function and general tissue health. In the young, sleep is critical for normal growth and development. The beneficial body processes that occur during sleep are too numerous to list completely, but a few of the more important items reveal how critical a good night’s sleep is to optimal health and wellness.
What Happens During Sleep
- During sleep, the brain processes the day’s events and prepares new pathways so that these experiences can be processed, remembered and integrated into existing brain pathways. This helps us learn from experience. Therefore, proper sleep aids in learning and problem-solving skills.
- Sleep also allows us to grow and mature emotionally.
- Our immune system strengthens during sleep. As a result, it can react more quickly and more strongly when the body is under attack from pathogens.
- While we sleep, our brain cells shrink by almost half making it easier for each cell to excrete toxins. So toxins that would otherwise take away from optimal function aren’t able to accumulate. Did you know that chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as anxiety and mood disorders?
- Tissue maintenance, repair and restoration also all occur during sleep. Applied to our heart and blood vessels, this diminishes the risk of heart attack and stroke. The incidence of both of these issues increases with chronic sleep deprivation.
- Sleep also improves insulin sensitivity. This affects not only our tendency towards diabetes as we age but obesity as well.
Now that you have a greater understanding of the importance of sleep, you are probably wondering what you can do about poor sleep. Finding the cause goes a long way towards fixing the problem.
Causes of Poor Sleep
“How can I be so tired and still not sleep?” Believe it or not, this happens in some unfortunate hypothyroid individuals. Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating the metabolic activity of every tissue. Low thyroid function typically results in low cellular metabolism. It is not surprising when an individual also complains of having low energy levels. There is a “catch 22” that may actually decrease your ability to fall asleep!
In order to successfully fall asleep, the cells in your brain’s sleep center must become metabolically more active. This is because your sleep center must work harder to suppress conscious brain activity. The problem is that any cellular activity that requires an increase in metabolism can suffer when one is hypothyroid. Tragically, many hypothyroid individuals, as tired as they may be, have difficulty falling asleep.
2. Progesterone Deficiency
Progesterone seems to be another common culprit. Women seem to be particularly dependent upon this marvelous hormone to feel well, but did you know that men and women actually make about the same amount of progesterone? Progesterone is a powerful stabilizing agent for the nervous system. When its neurologic calming effect is diminished, sleep also suffers. While hypothyroid individuals often have difficulty falling asleep, those with low progesterone often have trouble staying asleep. They awaken frequently, sometimes for no apparent reason.
Allergies are another cause of impaired sleep. Many can easily relate to being kept awake coughing or tossing and turning all night with a stuffed-up nose. In many, allergic symptoms just partially disturb sleep, which may then lead to “presenteeism” at work or school.
The list goes on. Menopause can be marked by night sweats or bladder spasms interrupting sleep. Many women can attest to this.
4. Eating or Drinking Late at Night
Eating or drinking too late may also contribute.
5. Adrenal Fatigue
Chronic stress and adrenal fatigue may result in the adrenals reversing their normal cortisol production. This adrenal disruption can be astonishingly precise. If you wake up alert at the same time with perhaps 10-20 minutes’ variance, your adrenals may be giving you the cortisol burst you needed earlier in the day.
Drugs for sleep just mask the issue. You may get some sleep, but not the quality you need for optimal health. So even if you feel that your main problem is poor sleep, don’t overlook other symptoms that seem less important. Brain fog, memory loss and cold hands may be additional symptoms of low thyroid function, even “high” cholesterol. PMS and other menstrual issues almost always indicate low progesterone.
Remember, the cause may be as obvious as the drummer next door or as subtle as the mild beginnings of hormonal decline. Don’t settle for a drug that doesn’t solve the “why” or for being told “welcome to getting older.” How poorly you sleep negatively affects you and your loved ones. Get a good night’s sleep. You and your loved ones are worth it.
Find out if hormone imbalance could be why you can’t sleep. Take our symptom checker quiz today!