By Claire Hosking

Sleep is one of the most important functions we perform each day. Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep is thought to disrupt the circadian rhythms of the body. These rhythms provide physical, mental and behavioural changes over a 24-hour period. Our daily exposure to light and dark are crucial for regulation. However, stress, exercise and diet can also play a role in either regulating or disrupting our rhythms. 

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays an important role in controlling the body’s hormonal regulation and is extremely influenced by our circadian rhythm and sleep quality. When we have sleep disturbances, we do not have regular circadian rhythms which can lead to irregular synthesis and secretion of female gonadal hormones.  Studies demonstrate that as sleep duration increases, the oestradiol and luteal phase progesterone concentrations also increase.  

So, how can you better support your sleep, to better support your hormones? Here are my top tips:

  • Commit to the same time for bed and waking each day. When you wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, you reinforce your body’s alignment with these cues. Consistency in your sleep schedule helps to regulate the timing of physiological processes such as hormone secretion, body temperature, and sleep-wake cycles.
  • At night, turn the lights down and avoid exposure to blue light for at least 2 hours before bed. Blue light can inhibit the release of melatonin which is essential for our circadian rhythm. 
  • On waking, try to expose your eyes to sunlight to help the release of serotonin. Serotonin and melatonin are in a delicate dance. Without one we have insufficient levels of the other. Serotonin helps us to feel awake and alert during the day, whereas melatonin helps us to wind down at the end of the day, allowing us to prepare for a deep and restful sleep. 
  • Limit caffeine after 12pm. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and suppresses arousal.  Caffeine blocks adenosine at the receptor which effects your sleep onset and can have effects on your sleep quality.
  • Exercising daily helps to modulate cortisol levels, improve stress response, increase secretion of melatonin and increasing endorphin levels. All have a positive effect on the quality of our sleep. 
  • Practice sleep meditations (particularly if you have an active mind before bed). Sleep meditations activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response. This activation leads to a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, promoting relaxation and facilitating the transition to sleep. Some of my favourite guided sleeps are on Insight Timer by @irestrichardmiller @manojdias_ 

Happy Sleep = Happy hormones. If you’d like to better understand how your diet, sleep and lifestyle are impacting your hormones, I would love to discuss how Naturopathy can support you further.

In health and happiness, 

Image credit: Tekla

Claire Hosking

Specialist Naturopath, Holistic Nutritionist, Herbalist

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