Cheryl Wiggins, pharmacist and integrative practitioner at Pharmaceutical Compounding NZ Ltd has been studying hormones at the international level and discusses "the hormone – age – sleep – fatigue connection" below.
We can all remember those beautiful nights of "long sound sleep" – sleeping so deeply and then waking up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.
Did I dream that?
For some of us a good night's sleep is just that – a dream or a thought of times gone by.
The reality is that sleep is affected by almost everything in our lives. Especially today's activities like watching television, answering emails or surfing the internet late at night, bright lighting at night, muscle cramps, poor food choices, poorly managed pain or feeling unwell. Being overweight and not exercising regularly does not help either. Simply put, stress of any kind will affect how and when we sleep.
Waking up feeling more tired or having a restless nights sleep seems to drive the roller coaster – the feeling of never being able to catch up on sleep no matter how hard we try just adds to the mix.
Difficulties with sleep may be a symptom or a result of stress and is one of the major causes of fatigue. Sleep is essential for health and well-being, it is the time for healing, recovery and repair.
Stress is part of our everyday lifestyle. Our stress hormones, produced by the adrenal glands, flood our bodies at the command of the nervous system and rouse us for action. It all happens in a split second without us realising it. This stress response helps us to perform in the time of need – the problem is when this goes on for long periods of time. The result is the balance of our hormones and nutrients gets out of "tune" and it becomes difficult to "settle down" or even worse "get going".
We all know it would be difficult to live stress free but it is the stress overload that often leads to fatigue. Fatigue is the lack of physical and mental energy which develops gradually as we deplete our hormonal resources by demanding too much, for too long. Sadly we only notice the result when we are faced with exhaustion, with the added bonus of not being able to sleep well as we seem to be wired and yet so tired.
Melatonin is the "sleep hormone", responsible for promoting and maintaining sleep as it's primary role in our bodies. As we age, our production of hormones goes down. The natural lowering levels of Melatonin and other hormones can affect sleep quality.
Low levels of Melatonin can cause sleep disorders as well as other factors such as raised cortisol, jet lag, shift work, poor choices of foods and lack of exercise that unbeknown to us sabotage our sleep patterns.
Good sleep relates to both the length and quality. Being sleep deprived means higher levels of cortisol, the risk of gaining weight, risks of high blood pressure and heart disease.
The hormone – age – sleep – fatigue connection can be a complex jigsaw puzzle to solve and sometimes requires persistent investigation. Having your hormones levels checked can be the best place to start looking, to understand the possible causes of on-going sleep disturbance.
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Pharmaceutical Compounding NZ Limited has numerous resources to help you understand your health and hormone status. We have a diagnostic testing service and free 15 minute advice and consultation session (please click here). We also include a special offer for GrownUps Members as part of the advice & consultation session.