Insomnia: Is It Hormonal, Nutrient Deficiency Or An Aging Phenomenon?
It is becoming more noticeable how many people are suffering with sleep issues, including myself. Why is this? Is it stress, is it an aging phenomenon, is it hormonal? Is it a deficiency of some nutrient or are we meant to sleep less as we age? It is so apparent that people suffer with sleep issues that i thought it necessary to write this article
Why do we need to sleep?, I guess is the first question that comes to mind.
During sleep the following important events happen:
- Immune system recovery.
- Brain restoration.
- Healing of the body occurs during sleep.
- Memory actually occurs during sleep, so all night studying does not equate to good memory, you need to sleep to remember!
There is a significant association of sleep disorders with anxiety and depression. Additionally emotional and psychological well-being is dependant on a good night’s sleep .Ideally to improve sleep one would suggest a non-addictive safe substance.
The side effects
The side effects of sleeping tablets include daytime tiredness, forgetfulness, addiction potential, rebound worse sleeping! Medications do not come without side effects, these can be as bad as hallucinations, fatigue, neurological symptoms, libido effects, urinary retention, tremors, blurred vison to name just a few.
so how do hormones fit into the whole picture is an obvious question as well?
Firstly the hormone melatonin comes to mind. This hormone, secreted from the pineal gland has much more than sleep enhancing effects. The effects beyond sleep include behavioural improvement, less headaches, improvement in symptoms such as tinnitus, cluster headaches, irritable bowel improvement, melatonin also induces less excitation to the brain, it is an indirect glutamate antagonist, and reduces cortisol (the major hormone of stress). Many studies have been done to prove the effectiveness of melatonin.
EFFECTS OF other HORMONAL CHANGES ON SLEEP
Estrogen also affects sleep via its effect on cortisol. Menopause is associated with higher levels occurring earlier in the sleep period. Stress is a major factor in increasing cortisol levels and affecting sleep.
It is very important to manage stress with exercise, and life-style techniques, the use of minerals and vitamin c are useful. Herbal adaptogens such as rhodiola and ashwaganda are very useful to regulate cortisol levels.
I find a nutrient phosphatidylserine very useful in lowering cortisol, improving memory and improving sleep.
Dhea: This in low doses can help counteract the effects of cortisol as well, cortisol levels I often find stabilizing on dhea
Pregnenelone: This is a very useful hormone to counteract the effects of cortisol and is the “”mother hormone”” of all steroid hormones.
Testosterone has been less well studied than the other sex hormones in relation to sleep. Testosterone tends to decrease REM sleep in animals, and significant gender differences is known to have a minor effect on sleep in humans, except testosterone is related to developing or worsening obstructive sleep apnea. I suggest transdermal testosterone to men when required, this improves sleep and does not seem to exacerbate obstructive sleep apnoe. I do monitor haemoglobin levels and prostate markers.
Studies have also been done on natural medicines that include passionflower, valerian, corydalis, magnesium and taurine to show that sleep can be improved naturally.