A Lack of Sleep is Wreaking Havoc on our Reproductive Hormones.
Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns. However just as important is the tremendous effects sleep deprivation can have on fluctuating hormone levels, particularly those involved in the human body’s reproductive system. Our ability to regulate the production and secretion of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) can play a huge part in our overall health and wellbeing. In males, LH primarily promotes the production of testosterone. While in females, LH stimulates the production of estrogen and progesterone. But just how detrimental poor sleep hygiene can be on your hormonal balance may surprise you.
Both males and females produce testosterone, and its production is equally important despite males producing far more of it. Low testosterone levels can have a number of negative effects on the body: -
- A drop in libido: After the age of 30, your testosterone will begin to drop at around 1% per year, lowering your natural sex drive. A fraction of men suffering from erectile dysfunction can trace it back to low testosterone levels.
- Increased fat storage and decreased muscle development: Testosterone helps the body burn fat quicker and assists in protein synthesis which aids in muscle and strength development.
- Increased risk of injury: A multi-year study of NBA players revealed athletes with low testosterone levels showed a statistically significant increase in injury risk.
Our testosterone levels operate on a daily cycle. The longer we are awake, the lower our testosterone, with peak hormone volumes measured during REM sleep. But every night of poor or broken sleep can have a quantifiable impact. The University of Chicago conducted an experiment with healthy, young males and saw a 10-15% drop in testosterone after only one week of sleep deprivation (classified as five hours of sleep or less). Low testosterone levels (hypogonadism) has also been linked to insomnia. Males suffering from hypogonadism experience fewer deep sleep cycles and a lower overall quality of sleep.
Estrogen is responsible for regulating menstrual cycles, initiating sexual development, managing cholesterol, and protecting bone health. Rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect a female’s ability to fall asleep and influence the quality of sleep they experience, with a shocking *67% of women experiencing forms of insomnia at least a few days every month.
For males, the production of dominant reproductive hormones is a simple daily process. However, a females hormone production is dynamic, and changes over the course of a monthly cycle. While asleep LH pulses are slow, releasing a controllable level of estrogen, but with periods of wakefulness or nights of broken sleep these pulses quicken, flooding the body with abnormal levels of estrogen and progesterone, disturbing the natural menstrual cycle.
Additionally, extended periods of alertness and the release of the alertness-hormone cortisol can suppress typical levels of reproductive hormones, potentially leading to poor sleeping habits and unstable mental health.
While there are remedies to low testosterone and hormone imbalances, treating the underlying cause remains not only the most effective, but the easiest, method of taking control of your own health. We here at Dreamers believe we all need to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep.
*In accordance with the National Sleep Foundation poll