Anyone who has spent hours lying in bed staring at the ceiling, rather than getting a good night’s sleep, understands the utter exasperation of insomnia. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal agency charged with tracking public health issues, “Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and medical and other occupational errors. Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality and reduced quality of life and productivity.”
The CDC further notes that insomnia may be caused by “broad scale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules. An estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.”
If you are experiencing regular bouts of insomnia, imbalanced hormones may be the cause. Complete our symptom checklist to determine which treatment options are available to you.
Insomnia is Hazardous to Your Health
According to a 2010 study by the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health the deleterious effects of insomnia are troubling.
- The consequence of sleep deprivation for 24 hours is comparable to the cognitive impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Judgement is impaired, there is a decrease in eye-to-hand coordination, plus memory and decision making are impaired.
- When sleep deprivation occurs over 36 hours, high levels of inflammatory markers are in the bloodstream which can lead to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
- After two days of no sleep, the body begins compensating by shutting down for micro-sleeps, episodes that last from half a second to half a minute and are usually followed by a period of disorientation. Micro-sleeps are similar to blackouts and a person experiencing them is not consciously aware that they are occurring.
The Elixir of Life
For the founder of EVEXIAS Medical Centers, Terri DeNeui, DNP, ACNP, APRN-BC, the value of a good night’s sleep is incalculable.
“Sleep is the elixir of life,” she said in a recent interview.
“It is the most important thing we can do for our bodies,” DeNeui noted. “When individuals are sleep – deprived and they are not getting six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, it can wreak havoc in all areas of their life – causing physical, mental and emotional problems.”
Causes of Insomnia
“Stress is the number one cause of insomnia,” she said. “We often find it impossible to ‘shut down’ our mental activities. We are constantly dealing with numerous, demanding stressors, including real and imagined responsibilities and deadlines. There is virtually no ‘down time’ for resting and unwinding.
“We also have continuous access to technology – from smartphones to the internet – and these encourage many of us to remain ‘on alert.’ This is not conducive to getting a good night’s rest.
“While stress is the primary culprit, hormones – particularly a deficiency of testosterone – can cause insomnia,” DeNeui noted. “Many people misunderstand testosterone and consider it an ‘aggression’ hormone. In fact, testosterone is a very powerful brain hormone and mood stabilizer.
“When men and women reach their 30’s and 40’s, they begin to experience a decrease in testosterone and this causes a decreased capacity to deal with the normal stresses of life. The consistent symptom of the people who come to our clinics is some degree of insomnia. Usually, this involves their waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. and being unable to get back to sleep. Needless to say, this is miserable for those patients.”
Does hormone-based insomnia affect women and men equally?
“In our practice, we see more women than men who are experiencing imbalanced hormone related insomnia,” she said. “However, about 75 percent of our patients are female, so that number is somewhat skewed. Women also have other symptoms related to low testosterone and sleeping, including the occurrence of night sweats.
“When a patient presents with insomnia and other testosterone – related symptoms, our first approach is to balance their hormones,” DeNeui said. “This results in an immediate improvement in their quality of life.
“Without question, the most dramatic change in our patients who begin hormone replacement therapy is their sleeping through the night,” DeNeui said. “This usually happens within the first week of therapy. Insomnia is typically the first symptom corrected when hormones are balanced.
“For the small number of patients who still experience insomnia after their hormones are balanced, we address factors such as their melatonin and stress levels and also begin the process of evaluating the other factors that might be causing sleep-deprivation. In most cases, stress is the overriding factor. We address this through counseling and help them to understand those factors, then move on.”
How Much Sleep is Needed?
“Some people say they can ‘get by’ on four or five hours of sleep each night,” DeNeui noted. “However, the research suggests that as adults, we need at least seven hours of sleep. Young children and teenagers require up to ten hours of sleep each night because they are growing and have many changes occurring in their bodies.
“If someone is sleeping seven or eight hours each night and still waking up exhausted, there is probably something else in their body causing this, and additional medical examinations should be considered.
“Finally, other research has suggested that many of us are keeping our bedrooms too warm at night,” she said. “The ideal sleeping temperature is 68 degrees (F). When a person has his or her bedroom much warmer, it causes a fitful night of sleep. When we cool our bodies, our metabolism slows and we become more relaxed.”