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Sleep!Could poor sleep could be affecting your body composition? Where does hormonal health enter the conversation?

The vast majority of our clients have body composition goals. It is safe to say that we can all agree having solid weight training and nutritional strategy/support is necessary. After all, the “toned”, “lean”, “fit”, and “strong” look many seek is a body that has muscle to provide that shape. 

  • Where does sleep fit into the mix? 

  • How can sex hormones negatively affect your sleep thus negatively affect body composition?  

These are the questions we are going to address today along with touching in on lifestyle go-to strategies that could be hurting us more than helping. 

Sleep isn't just a passive state of rest; it's an active and complex process that involves both the brain and the body. When we sleep, our bodies undergo a series of physiological changes that are crucial for our overall health and well-being. 

Sleep is not an optional activity, it's a biological necessity. 

Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive function, emotional well-being, and physical health. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to significant health problems. When it comes to the immune system specifically, during sleep the body produces hormones that help the body grow and, throughout life, build muscle, fight illnesses, and repair damage to the body. 

Without enough quality sleep, we may experience a range of negative effects, including:

  • increased risk of chronic diseases

  • altered glycemic control and decreased insulin sensitivity (ie: you won't utilize glucose as efficiently so you will have to produce more insulin, cue a path towards diabetes risk) 

  • decreased Leptin and increased Ghrelin, a hunger hormone: (so now you are craving more but yet have decreased ability to utilize those extras you are eating, well that stinks)

  • decreased testosterone and growth hormone production. 

  • Changes in thyroid function and adrenal health

  • Increased risk of injuries and decreased healing

Cue, hot mess express and difficulty with fat loss as well as muscle building. 

Emotional Well Being 

As mentioned, Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive function and emotional well-being. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to impaired memory and  mood disturbances. This can translate to you becoming more easily annoyed or angry, and that can lead to trouble with relationships (personal and professional). Although our focus is not children in this blog it is important to note that this does apply for children and teens. Also, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to become depressed and/or have anxiety. 

What could affect the quality of sleep?

  • Travel

  • Shift work

  • Having dependants: this could mean anything from fur babies to children (regardless of age), elderly whom you are looking after, etc 

  • Construction

  • Different schedules of roommates/partners 

  • Emotional stress: socioeconomic, political, etc.. 

  • Blood sugar dysregulation

  • Caffeine consumption 

Cancer Risk: Sleep and Alcohol

Research in adults has shown that lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions such as Alzheimer's and Cancer. NIght shift work has been labeled a category 2A carcinogen (probable carcinogen).  We would like to draw special attention to this statement from John Hopkins: “Disruptions in the body’s “biological clock,” which controls sleep and thousands of other functions, may raise the odds of cancers of the breast, colon, ovaries and prostate.” 

This can be a time where we see many people resort to having a glass or three of their favorite cocktail to help relax and sleep better regardless of whether this is at the end of the night or using the weekend to “live a little”. 

You may want to reconsider that relaxation strategy. 

For a female, ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk by 30-50% depending on the specific study.(1 ,2 ) According to “compared to women who don't drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day”. 

We have now learned that lack of sleep increases breast cancer risk factor but also an activity that many women (and men) do to HELP with relaxation and sleep, ie: alcohol consumption, is an even more contributing factor. That is pretty darn profound. 

Sleep and Sex Hormones 

You may have heard that progesterone is the beautiful sex  hormone that is important in calming our brain and our nervous system (think anxiety reduction & relaxation promotion) which aids in sleep. This is correct. However, it is important to know that low levels of sex hormones, estradiol and testosterone, can be just as much drivers as progesterone in the reduction of sleep quality and quantity. 

Estrogen plays a role in the metabolism of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that affect our sleep wake cycle via influence on melatonin production. Estrogen also helps keep our body temperature low at night (cue hot flashes and night sweats) and therefore more conducive to restful sleep. Testosterone can work inverse of cortisol so as testosterone drops cortisol can go up also impacting sleep as cortisol moves inverse of melatonin. Low testosterone just as with estradiol and progesterone has been shown to affect sleep quality. On the flip side, lack of sleep as we already covered can also lower testosterone. 

This is where we must circle back to hormonal health and use a female's menstrual cycle as a vital sign. You can see that regardless of age sex hormones and hormonal health have profound implications on the brain (master regulator) and thus our sleep. 

Sex hormones and their effect on sleep will affect females who are experiencing:

  • Primary or secondary amenorrhea

  • Premature ovarian failure

  • PCOS 

  • ALL females will go through perimenopause

  • ALL females will be in menopause at some pont

It is VERY important for us to take sex hormones with their effects on sleep quality and quantity now understanding the global body implications and risks of lack of adequate quality sleep. 

Improve your Sleep: 

HERE is our free download of our favourite sleep hygiene practices. Along with this we do encourage you to assess your hormonal health as you have read the pretty big impacts that can have on sleep to which we ALL will go through perimenopause and menopause. 

In summary, recognizing the relationship between sleep and hormonal health is essential for optimizing body composition and overall well-being. Sleep is not merely a period of rest; it's a dynamic process that influences hormone regulation, metabolic function, emotional stability, and immune response. Low levels of estrogen, testosterone, or progesterone can significantly impact sleep quality and quantity, affecting everyday quality of life, mood, and relationships. Hormonal dips and decline can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, difficulty with fat loss, and experiencing restorative sleep, contributing to mood disturbances, irritability, and strained relationships. Therefore, prioritizing both sleep hygiene practices and hormonal health interventions is crucial for supporting optimal sleep quality as well as those body composition health goals! 

If you are having trouble with sleep or noticing the quality maybe suffering due to any of the things we have mentioned or recognize you could use the support of a coach. See the link below. We would love to support you.


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