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A Hormone-Balancing Action Plan For Better Sleep

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Balanced hormones really do mean a balanced life. Our mood, emotions, vitality—and yes, even our sleep quality—all depend on our body's little army of chemical messengers. Want to finally clock those eight uninterrupted hours we're all after? Focus on balancing these three hormones first.

1. Melatonin

The hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm, melatonin production shoots up at night to tell the body that it's time for bed and decreases in the morning as a signal to wake up. A number of things can disrupt this cyclical pattern, especially exposure to artificial light from electronics. A recent study found that people who read from light-emitting reading devices usually have a harder time falling asleep and don't sleep as deeply compared to those who read from a physical book before bed.

Though low doses of melatonin tablets (around 1 mg) can safely help regulate the hormone in the short run, they can prove ineffective when overused. This routine from immunologist Dr. Amy Shah will help you restore your body's release of melatonin naturally.

Your action plan for regulating melatonin levels throughout the day:

  1. Build a daily wake-up time that does not change for at least five days. This way, your body will begin to expect to see light at certain times. Expose your eyes to sunlight in the morning whenever possible to reset your melatonin and circadian rhythm.
  2. Do not talk on the phone or do other emotionally stimulating activities two hours before bed. Try your best to shut off electronics as well, or at least dim the brightness of your devices.
  3. Stop eating at least two hours before bed. Eating before sleep could mess with your blood sugar levels, which disrupts melatonin production.
  4. Make your bedroom as dark as possible during sleep.

2. Cortisol

Healthy cortisol levels naturally rise and fall during the day, reaching a peak around 8 a.m. and a lull around midnight. This drop leading up to bedtime is supposed to serve as a signal to the body that it's time to sleep. However, if you're someone who's eternally stressed out, chances are this cycle is out of whack. More worry and anxiety means the release of more cortisol, which throws off blood sugar levels and sends the body into a stress response that makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Your action plan for lowering cortisol before bed:

  1. Test out an essential oil before bed this week; lavender, bergamot, and ylang ylang all promote relaxation. You can place these in a diffuser, add a few drops to your nighttime bath, or create a water spritz to spray on your pillow.
  2. Start a bedtime breathwork routine to de-stress. Equal breathing is a calming practice—simply breathe in, hold, and breathe out to counts of four until you feel your racing thoughts mellow.
  3. Make sure you're not exposing yourself to endocrine-disrupting toxins as you sleep by switching over to a natural mattress. Essentia mattresses are made using only the highest quality natural and organic ingredients like hevea milk, organic essential oils, and natural plant extracts.

3. Progesterone

Most people know progesterone as the hormone that regulates women's monthly menstrual cycles, but its amazing relationship to brain health and sleep is less talked about. Progesterone protects the brain from damage, helps repair it after injury, and can regulate cognition and mood. Progesterone cream has been used on male and female patients with traumatic brain injuries, and the results are promising. This miracle hormone can also help calm the brain and promote deep sleep. This routine from Dr. Eva Selhub, a physician and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, will help you make the most of your body's store.

Your action plan for harnessing progesterone for better sleep:

  1. De-stressing is key to balancing the levels of any hormone. All remedies that reduce stress response can help regulate progesterone, so make a point to exercise or meditate for at least a few minutes every day.
  2. Try out a hormone-balancing diet by avoiding stimulants like sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine. (In my opinion, one cup of coffee in the morning is plenty.) Instead, focus on anti-inflammatory foods that keep the stress response in check like dark leafy greens, colorful vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats like omega 3-fatty acids, coconut oil, and avocado.
  3. Drink holy basil (tulsi) tea before bed. It's a great herb that helps with hormone regulation.

Put it all together

Combine all of these hormone-balancing tips for the ultimate sleep-promoting routine:

During the day, set your alarm for a consistent time, expose your eyes to sunlight upon waking, and replace stimulants with a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Stop eating and using technology in the hours leading up to bedtime, swapping them with a good book and cup of tulsi tea. Take a few minutes to get your essential oil fix, meditate, and complete a breathwork exercise before letting your head hit the pillow. Set yourself up for uninterrupted sleep by making your room darker, and ensure that your bed supports a deep slumber, like Essentia's proprietary natural memory foam mattresses that reduces motion transfer and pressure points.

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