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  • Kandis Mascall

The Pandemic Has Changed Sleep; Are Your Hormones Hurting or Helping?

As human beings, sleep is one of the most vital activities needed to help us function properly. But like most things, the global pandemic has seemingly upended sleeping patterns for many. Casper, the brand primarily known for selling mattresses, recently conducted a survey where they asked 1,000 Americans to report any changes in their sleep patterns.

Casper found that "since March 2020, over 52.6% of respondents were going to bed later than usual or at inconsistent times," and "30.3% of people reported that they relied on supplements like melatonin to help them sleep at night, finding the AM-to-PM wind down pretty difficult."

While difficulty sleeping may be a new phenomenon for some, there is one demographic of women who have consistently reported sleeping issues, and the pandemic could be making nighttime even harder. Women going through menopause experience a decline in their reproductive hormones around their 40s and 50s, and in turn, this can affect the quality of sleep.

According to the Sleep Foundation, "Sleep issues are common, with sleep disorders affecting 39 to 47 percent of perimenopausal women and 35 to 60 percent of postmenopausal women. The most common sleep problems reported by women going through menopause include hot flashes, insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, and other mood and sleep disorders."

Dr. Rosalind Jackson, a board-certified physician in Functional Medicine, says that stress caused by the pandemic could be compounding the symptoms felt by menopausal women. "If you're worried about providing for your family or job and housing security caused by the pandemic, this can wreak havoc on women who are already feeling the effects of menopause. And when you start to consider sleep, that makes it even more difficult."

When faced with stress, the body produces cortisol, a steroid hormone that triggers one's fight or flight response, a response that is not conducive for rest.

There are some remedies and strategies women can employ to help them rest easier at night. One of those remedies is an increase in a hormone known as progesterone. For those who are unfamiliar with this hormone, "Progesterone, estrogen’s cousin, is the hormone that helps maintain pregnancy. It is produced in a woman’s eggs, adrenal glands and placenta (when a woman is pregnant). Known as the 'relaxing hormone,' progesterone has a mildly sedative effect," according to Yale Medicine.

Dr. Jackson breaks down how deficiencies in this hormone can impact sleep, "Progesterone is a very, very powerful hormone. When you've entered menopause, your hormones naturally go down. Progesterone is one of the first hormones that go down. And as a result of that, you have difficulty sleeping."

Unfortunately, not every woman's body is equipped to handle an increase in progesterone levels, but there is one other remedy that has already been mentioned, melatonin. And while melatonin is primarily associated as a sleep aid, Dr. Jackson says this hormone is so much more, "It is a very potent anti-inflammatory, and it addresses a couple of things including immune health and support."