Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the difficulty or inability to get the proper amount of sleep. In addition to having trouble falling asleep, sleep issues can include: easily disrupted sleep, difficulty returning to sleep, early morning awakening and unrefreshing sleep. Insomnia is a serious problem for many men and women and it contributes to other disorders such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, daytime fatigue, and sleeping medication addiction. In addition, a lack of sleep has been linked to lower productivity and a greater risk of injury. Insomnia can have many causes, including: stress, depression, medications, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, inconsistent sleep schedules, eating too much and too late.
Additionally, insomnia can also be related to hormone imbalance. Fluctuations of thyroid, testosterone, cortisol, progesterone, melatonin and/or growth hormone can all cause sleep difficulties. It is also a self-aggravating problem, as lack of sleep can cause further hormonal imbalances. In women, sleeping problems are often caused by either too much estrogen or too little progesterone. Estrogen stimulates the nervous system whereas progesterone calms it down, therefore, estrogen and progesterone must be balanced for proper sleep to occur.
Melatonin is what causes sleepiness when it’s dark and the peak nighttime release of melatonin decreases by approximately 50 percent with aging. Excess estrogen interferes with the production of melatonin. Cortisol will increase with prolonged insomnia because of the strain poor sleep puts on the body. Consistently high levels of cortisol can lead to adrenal fatigue which can also worsen insomnia. Also, human growth hormone is produced by the body during the first 90 minutes of sleep. Therefore, if sleep is disrupted, growth hormone production is reduced. This is a self-perpetuating problem since the reduction of growth hormone level has been linked to poor sleep.
The decrease in testosterone associated with andropause can lead to snoring and sleep apnea (a repetitive interruption of breathing during sleep), which also causes poor sleep. Sleep is essential to maintain proper health and hormone balance.