There are few things as important to how we feel, how we look and our overall health than sleep. Consistently getting the right amount of sleep is as important to long-term wellness as a healthy diet and regular exercise. Yet, many of us don’t get enough of it. Health professionals agree that the risks of not getting enough sleep are plentiful.
- Sleep deprivation can affect our ability to think, respond and perform error-free the same way alcohol intoxication can. (1)
- Lack of sleep has been shown to slow walking speed in women and contribute to reducing their overall physical performance. (2)
- Inadequate sleep can increase depression and reduce social skills, as well as the ability to process emotional information, leading to mood swings and interpersonal conflict. (3)
- Those who don’t sleep enough have an increased risk of getting sick because their immune function becomes compromised. (4)
Sleep and Hormone ImbalancesSleep deprivation can disrupt daily fluctuations of hormones. This has numerous consequences, such as inability to control appetite, lower metabolic rates and poor mood regulation. Unfortunately, women who are already struggling with hormone imbalance because they’re in perimenopause, menopause or post-menopause have the hardest time sleeping in their lives. Because sleep affects hormones and hormones affect sleep, many women get caught in a vicious cycle. Women in these stages of life report more sleeping problems than any other time in their lives. The natural decrease in estrogen and progesterone contributes to sleep disruption. Progesterone is a sleep-producing hormone, so women may find it takes them longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, get less sleep overall and feel sleepy throughout the day. Hot flashes and night sweats are also responsible for disrupting women’s sleep during this stage in life. Rapid drops in hormones trigger spikes in adrenaline and result in extreme sweating or hot flashes that interrupt sleep cycles. Often, women will wake up because they feel they're overheating or because they are already sweating. Once they've cooled down, the cycle of insomnia can start all over again. They may have been woken up shortly after falling asleep and now have to go through the discomfort of it taking more than 30 minutes to fall back to sleep and perhaps even another round of being woken up by hormone drops.
Chronic Systemic InflammationWe all have varying levels of inflammation and may not even be aware when it’s happening. Certain types of inflammation are our bodies' way to protect us from infection, disease or injury. When inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can wreak havoc on our wellbeing, sleep and hormone levels. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include (5):
Weight GainThis is already an issue for women in the menopausal state because a drop in certain hormones slows metabolism. A lack of sleep has shown to not only increase appetite and caloric intake but also increase inflammation. Fat cells can produce cytokines – the chemicals our bodies produce to kill germs and trigger inflammatory cells. When these fat cells grow, more inflammatory cells are attracted and the less sleep we get. The less sleep we get, the more weight we gain and the more inflamed our system becomes.
Constant fatiguePersistent fatigue accompanies chronic inflammation because it leads to reduced cellular energy availability. The way we produce energy becomes less efficient, so the energy we expend leaves us depleted and struggling against a constant state of fatigue. For women dealing with hormone imbalance, fatigue goes hand in hand with insomnia and interrupted sleep, which many of them may already experience. These women will also find they have a preoccupation throughout the day with sleep and worrying about insomnia. This leads to further irritability, inflammation and worsening insomnia.
Mood disordersMood disorders can be linked to inflammation through a variety of paths. The first is a lack of sleep. Cognitive ability is reduced when we run on a sleep deficit. Hormone fluctuations can be a result of both inflammation and lack of sleep, making it difficult to regulate our moods and understand social clues and cues. This can lead to interpersonal strife and leave us in a constant state of depression and anxiety as our dopamine and serotonin levels diminish.
Body painLow-grade chronic inflammation can lead to joint pain, making it very difficult to get comfortable. This can lead to tossing and turning and add to insomnia, which we now know further contributes to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is slow and less severe than acute inflammation that might occur from an injury or illness. This inflammation generally lasts more than six weeks and can occur in the absence of any illness or injury. In fact, sleep deprivation and hormone imbalance can cause systematic inflammation. But guess what? The symptoms of chronic inflammation can lead to sleep disturbances, which cause hormone imbalances and increase chronic widespread inflammation. This cycle is difficult for anyone to correct, but such is the case particularly among women already going through difficult hormonal changes.
CurcuminoidsCurcuminoids are the pigments that give turmeric its bright orange colour. They are considered polyphenols and are powerful antioxidants because they directly attack and get rid of free radicals. Curcuminoids are known as one of the most natural anti-inflammatories available.
Curcuminoids, Inflammation and HormonesCurcuminoids reduce inflammation and curb the symptoms that keep women already struggling with their hormones awake. This can help lessen and eventually address the sleep issues these women suffer from. This, in and of itself, can help women sleep at night and allow their bodies to bring their hormones into balance. This further reduces inflammation, changing the trajectory of the cycle from vicious to healthy. Because of their powerful anti-inflammation properties, curcuminoids can bring balance back to these hormone levels:
- Testosterone disruptions caused by inflammation can increase women’s risk of atherosclerosis and negatively affect the cardiovascular system.
- DHEA plays a huge role in our immune systems. Inflammation allows an increase in cortisol, the hormone released during stress, and hampers the production of healthy DHEA.
- Cortisol is necessary as long as it's regulated. Less sleep and high inflammation can increase ongoing unregulated stress, flooding your system with unhealthy levels of cortisol.
- Estrogen accelerates inflammation resolution throughout the body. Because menopause is marked by a decrease in estrogen, inflammation may be difficult to overcome during this time.