It's no secret that hormones affect nearly every facet of your life; sleeping patterns are no exception. Hormone imbalance strikes women at many times in her life, most predictably at menarche (first menstruation), pregnancy, and menopause. Estrogen is a key hormone for women as it influences many body processes including:
- Bone loss prevention
- Body temperature regulation
- Mental health and cognitive preservation
- Reproductive health
- Maintaining healthy sleeping patterns
Therefore, it's no surprise that women experience particular trouble sleeping at times during estrogenic fluctuations. During menopause, for example, estrogen levels plummet and the remaining level in the body is spread so thin that many of estrogen's duties go undone; this results in unpleasant symptoms during menopause. Though sleeping difficulties can be a direct product of estrogen deficiency, sleep can also be affected by these other symptoms that accompany fallen estrogen levels like:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Stomach problems
These and other symptoms can lead to insomnia, or the difficulty of falling asleep and staying asleep for a period of at least one month. Women with an estrogen deficiency are also at risk for developing other sleep disorders that put them at risk for fatigue and irritability.
- Sleep apnea. This involves having one or more moments during sleep in which breathing ceases for at least 10 seconds.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS). Sufferers of RLS have a constant urge to move their appendages, usually their legs.
- Narcolepsy. These are attacks of abrupt sleep and excessive sleepiness during the day.
There are treatment options available for sleep disorders. The first step to selecting the best method for you is to test your estrogen levels to make sure that your dissatisfying sleep is the result of insufficient estrogen. Once you know that your body needs more estrogen there are many routes you can take.
Exercise. Exercise is one of the most basic and least invasive methods for balancing hormones.
Eat estrogen promoting foods. Soy and flax seed are among them, but should not be over eaten. There is a fine line between estrogen deficiency and estrogen dominance.
Try estrogenic herbs. Wild yam and black cohosh are all naturally occurring plants that contain bioidentical estrogen.
Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). This is a risky method that replaces lacking levels of estrogen in the body with laboratory-synthesized estrogen. This option carries the risk of a number of side effects.
If you are suffering from sleeping problems, talk with your doctor about diagnostic options to better assess what treatment is right for you. ERT can be effective for certain women, but in many instances, the benefits do not outweigh the costs. For more information about sleeping problems and estrogen imbalance follow the links below.