Hormones are responsible for much of what makes our adult bodies function. For women, estrogen and progesterone regulate everything from your period to your body temperature, so an excess or lack of either hormone can wreak havoc. Some symptoms of a hormonal imbalance appear at night, so watching out for them in the sleeping hours can make it easier to know if something is out of whack in your system.
A hormonal imbalance can disrupt your sleep in a number of ways, which is unsurprising when you think about how common insomnia is among those going through menopause or pregnancy. But you might not immediately think it's your hormones causing your night time problems if you aren't in either of those situations, especially because the symptoms of hormonal imbalances are fairly innocuous on the whole: Common indicators of the condition like breast tenderness, indigestion, or weight gain can be caused by so many factors, according to Medical News Daily, from your period to eating something funny to stress.
Plus, hormonal changes are normal at different phases of a woman's life, such as during ovulation, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. But if you notice a combination of new symptoms or a sudden onset of issues arising at night and you aren't going through one of those normal cyclical changes, you should contact a doctor to figure out what's going on, as a hormonal imbalance could very well be to blame. Read on to find out about seven ways a hormonal imbalance can impact you while you sleep.
1. You Have Night Sweats
Everyone wakes up sweatier than usual sometimes, whether it's after a bad dream or perhaps when you're postpartum. But if you're frequently experiencing sleep hyperhidrosis (the medical term for night sweats, per BodyLogicMD), a hormonal imbalance might be to blame. Low levels of estrogen cause your hypothalamus to believe your body is too hot, consequently making you sweat to try to get rid of the phantom heat. (That's why you'll often feel very cold when you wake up from a night sweat.) So check with a doctor if you're waking up with damp sheets every night.
2. You Can't Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, decreases in estrogen and progesterone can also lead to insomnia. It's more common if you have less progesterone in your body than usual because it's a "sleep promoting" hormone. A study published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that progesterone restores normal sleep when someone is woken, so naturally its absence would lead you to have difficulty falling asleep or cause you to wake up in the night. Being unable to sleep isn't necessarily a sign that anything is wrong with your hormone levels on its own , but if it's paired with other symptoms, you'll want to go to a doctor.
3. You Wake Up Really Thirsty
As Dr. Heather Rosen, MD, medical director of UPMC Urgent Care North Huntingdon in Pennsylvania explained to Prevention, "Estrogen and progesterone levels can both affect fluid volume," (or how much water your body is able to retain). If your body is producing too much or too little of either hormone, you may end up feeling parched even if you're hydrating. Lots of variables can impact how thirsty you are, like certain medications or stress per the Calm Clinic, but only a medical professional will be able to tell you definitively what's causing your for water.
4. You Can't Sleep Through The Night Without Getting Up To Go To The Bathroom
You may not think of hormones as important to your urinary functions, but estrogen actually plays a vital role in regulating how often you have to go to the bathroom. As to a study published in Pub Med found, decreased estrogen production "may be associated with lower urinary tract symptoms such as frequency, urgency, nocturia, urgency incontinence and recurrent infection." (Nocturia is the medical term for waking up when you're sleeping because of having to go to the bathroom, as the Cleveland Clinic explained.) As with insomnia, waking up to pee can be caused by a myriad of issues (such as simply over-hydrating before bed), but it's best practice to make a doctors appointment if you can't get through a night without waking up multiple times because of your bladder.
5. You Have To Sleep With A Million Blankets
Hot flashes are more commonly associated with menopause and other hormone related conditions, but cold flashes are just as common. Progesterone is the hormone most responsible for making you feel cold, as a study published in Comprehensive Physiology reports, so an excess of it will make you shiver. Some people simply run cold, but it might be cause for concern if you notice a sudden increase in how often you feel chilled.
6. You're Bleeding Through Overnight Pads
Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle, so any disturbance to the normal levels of either in your body can lead to issues with your menses. One of those issues can be excessive bleeding, as a result of the lining of the uterus becoming thicker than it should be according to the Mayo Clinic. The overly thick lining builds and eventually sheds, and then you're stuck changing a sanitarty pad or tampon every hour. Everyone's periods are different, and only you can know what's normal for you. But if your period suddenly gets really heavy for no reason, forcing you to wake up throughout the night to change your feminine care products, you should talk to your OB-GYN.
7. You're Waking Up To Hair On Your Pillow
You might not immediately assume there's something wrong if you notice your hair shedding while you sleep, especially if you have long hair that gets replaced often anyway. But thinning hair or hair loss can be a symptom of a hormonal imbalance: progesterone and estrogen both promote hair growth, according to Women's Health, so your low levels of either can lead to hair loss. Again, this would only be cause for concern if you notice an increase in the amount of hair you're shedding, but only a doctor can tell you if it's something you should worry about.