If you feel like your hormones are all over the place, ask yourself whether or not you’re getting enough sleep.
Hormones are important in regulating many of your bodily functions, and it also greatly affects your behavior and mood. If you find yourself being accused of being hormonal all the time, that probably means your mood swings are getting too unpredictable. It’s important to keep your hormones in check, but there are many things that could trigger imbalances. Sleep deprivation is one of them.
Lack of sleep messes up your hormones like no other, and this leads to a number of other problems. To understand these problems, it’s best to understand the hormones that are affected by sleep – or in this case, the lack of it:
Melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle, or what is known as the circadian rhythm. It’s responsible for giving your brain the signal that it’s time to sleep, and in the same way it signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up. Largely affected by your exposure to light, melatonin is the reason why normal people sleep at night and are alive, alert, and enthusiastic during the day.
If you deprive yourself of sleep, your body clock or circadian rhythm gets thrown off the course, and your body gets confused signals. Your sleeping pattern suffers and becomes less predictable, even if technically melatonin is still there – just not at the right time. This can be corrected by setting a regular sleeping schedule and really sticking to it, but you don’t want to wait for this to develop into an actual sleeping disorder.
Cortisol is often called the ‘stress hormone’, because what it does is regulate or moderate your body’s response to stress-inducing situations. When the body experiences stress, many changes occur and cortisol regulates these changes: blood sugar levels, blood pressure, immune responses, blood vessel contraction, central nervous system activation, and others. When our bodies experience continued stress, our cortisol levels keep getting heightened and don’t really get the chance to go back to normal.
When you lack sleep, you get more stressed out with everything. You also get increased levels of cortisol, especially in the evenings. This feeds into a vicious cycle of sleeplessness because if you have too much cortisol at night, you’ll find it hard to relax and sleep.
Leptin and Ghrelin
Leptin and Ghrelin, your hunger hormones, also get affected by your lack of sleep. That’s right – how much sleep you’re getting actually affects how hungry you feel. When you’re sleep-deprived, your leptin levels are lowered. This is because leptin, the hormone that suppresses your appetite, is normally produced at nighttime when you’re asleep. If you deprive yourself of sleep, your leptin levels get lowered and this means your appetite doesn’t get suppressed.
While this is happening, lack of sleep also tends to increase your levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry. This deadly combination of decreased leptin and increased ghrelin is certainly a recipe for disaster. Imagine always feeling hungry and never feeling full – both at the same time. This is why getting enough sleep is important for weight loss, and why not getting adequate sleep makes you prone to weight gain.
When you’re deprived of sleep, you also tend to be more at risk for diseases like diabetes, and this is because sleep deprivation also affects your insulin levels. Diabetes as a disease severely affects your body’s ability to produce insulin, and people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to contract this disease.
Interestingly enough, those who oversleep are also at a risk for diabetes, so it’s not just about getting too little – it’s more of not getting the right quantity of sleep that really messes up with your system. When your sleep levels are abnormal (whether too little or too much), the resulting decreased insulin sensitivity and decreased glucose tolerance both increase your risk of having diabetes.
The human growth hormone is secreted by your body during sleep. In fact, your body secretes most of your important hormones while you’re sleeping, and this is why sleep is very important especially for children who are still undergoing growth and development. Of course this doesn’t mean that just because you’re an adult you can already get away with not sleeping. You still need to have the right quantity of sleep as an adult, because your hormones still get messed up just as much.
The human growth hormone for instance is important for the repair and restoration of tissues, even during adulthood. Even if you’re an adult, your body still needs healing and this is why sleep is very important. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re also depriving your body of the growth hormone.