Q: I have trouble sleeping, could this be related to my hormones?
A: Women are more likely than men to have disturbed sleep, with either difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. These problems often develop in mid-life and can occur in association with hormonal changes. There are several lifestyle modifications that can help improve sleep:
- Sleep hygiene: total darkness in the bedroom with no ambient light, go to bed at the same time every night (best by 10 pm)
- Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed
- Keep the temperature cool in the bedroom
- Have a light snack with protein shortly before bed to prevent overnight hypoglycemia
- Maintain a low-glycemic diet, avoiding refined flours and sugars
- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol
- Use a full-spectrum lamp for at least 20 minutes a day in the morning to boost production of serotonin and melatonin, supporting mood and sleep
- Get physical activity or movement every day
- Exercise in the morning, not at night
- Meditate or do yoga in the evening before bed
Beyond these simple techniques, evaluating hormone levels (including melatonin and cortisol) can be helpful to appropriately address hormone balance and adrenal function. While melatonin can be used as a short-term sleep aid, other agents that manage nighttime cortisol levels such as phosphatidyl serine might be more suitable. Peri-menopausal sleep disturbances can also sometimes be improved with natural progesterone cream. A naturopathic consult can help identify the issues at hand and resolve them to balance hormones and improve sleep.