It’s All About the Hormones: PCOS Relief Strategy #2
I’ll admit… I haven’t been sleeping so great lately.
I’ve been completely overwhelmed with all the things I feel like I have to get done. Between my various work projects — writing, business development, planning my programs for my fertility coaching clients and then actually meeting with them and supporting them on their fertility journeys – and running my household, chasing after my toddler, trying to get other exercise, and showing up at my day job a few times a week, I’m stretched pretty thin. On top of all that, we also just potty-trained my son, which is going well (knock wood!) but seems to take up an inordinate amount of time.
The long and short of it is, I’m not going to bed early enough and when I wake up, instead of feeling rested, I feel like I didn’t sleep at all. It sucks.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to skimp on the sleep. After a full day or work, commitments, rushing around, getting dinner on the table, sometimes nighttime is the only time we have to get stuff done. We stay up too late and then have to get up early the next day to do it all again.
Sleep is essential to everyone’s well-being — and if you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, not getting enough sleep can actually make your condition worse.
In recognition of PCOS Awareness Month, we’re spending all of September looking at ways you can actually get some relief from PCOS, instead of just living with the condition. Last week we talked about the importance of eating healthy fats and gave a yummy recipe that I hope you made for dinner (I did, on Friday, and it was delicious!).
And you guessed it, this week we’re focusing on sleep.
Strategy #2: Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep Each Night
There’s no way around this one. Sleep is a key way to manage PCOS so it’s essential that you get enough sleep if you have this condition.
The main reason for this is because PCOS is, at its core, a hormonal condition. It’s caused by a hormonal imbalance resulting in an overabundance of male sex hormones such as testosterone and androgens.
Sleep is not only the time we rest and recharge our batteries for the next day, it’s also the time when some of our key hormones are produced and released, including Growth hormone, stress hormones, and some of the reproductive hormones. This happens during the period of our deepest and most restorative sleep. If our sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have enough time to complete this important function.
Here are other ways getting your zzz’s and PCOS go hand-in-hand:
- Sleep helps maximize the benefits of diet changes. This is huge. One manifestation of PCOS is weight gain that is often attributed to insulin resistance. PCOS patients are often advised to lose weight, as losing just a little bit of weight can make huge strides in keeping your hormone levels in check. Getting enough sleep can actually enhance the beneficial effects of a diet, largely through the regulation of the hormones leptin, which suppresses appetite, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. On the flip side, not getting enough sleep could defeat the desired effects of a diet.
It would be a real tragedy to do all the work of watching what you eat in order to lose weight, only to have it all negated by not getting enough sleep.
- Sleep keeps our stress hormones balanced as well. Sleep deprivation can cause an undesired increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can exacerbate the insulin resistance to which PCOS sufferers are already vulnerable. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes, and PCOS sufferers often develop those conditions.
If there’s a risk factor to which you’re already susceptible due to having PCOS, it makes the most sense to try and minimize that risk, and getting enough sleep is a sensible way to do that.
- PCOS has been linked to sleeping conditions like insomnia and sleep apnea. This link is not entirely clear; it’s not uncommon to see PCOS sufferers develop these conditions. The weight gain and underlying hormonal imbalance that characterizes PCOS are also seen in both insomnia and sleep apnea, and women with PCOS are at a much greater risk (upwards of 30%) of developing sleep apnea than the general population.
If you think you might have insomnia or sleep apnea, please discuss this with your doctor so that you can get immediate treatment. Because some treatments have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and daytime and nighttime hormone levels, treating these conditions may help your PCOS as well. And you will feel better because you’re getting better-quality sleep.
So I can’t overstate the importance of getting sufficient, first-rate sleep. This is so imprtant for all of us, but especially if you have PCOS. There are lots of tips to help make sure you’re getting enough sleep and that the sleep you’re getting is the quality rest you need to keep your hormones balanced and your body functioning at its best. You can check some of them out here.
Okay. It’s late and I know I need my sleep! Stay tuned for next week and the next strategy for PCOS relief. Good night!