What you will learn in this article:
- Increase low magnesium level
- Increase low progesterone level
- Add sleep-promoting foods, herbs or blends
- Lower stress and cortisol, the stress hormone
- Block out the artificial light before bed
- Reduce alcohol before bed
- Stop caffeine at noon
- Skip the sugary late-night snacks
- What is the last thing you watch, do or think before bed?
- How to make a Sleep-Promoting Pillow
I’ve been updating this article for years. Every time I find new research or a new tool worth trying, I would test it on myself and a select group of followers. Lately, I’ve also been using my Oura ring to document my experiments; sleep with or without alcohol, with or without a hot bath, with and without exercise, without and without caffeine after noon. I’m sharing what I’ve discovered over the years.
I don’t think I need to convince you that sleep matter. You know how good it feels to have a full night’s, restful, deep sleep, yes?
Maybe you have forgotten what good sleep even feels like?
Maybe you need sleeping aids to get any sleep but you know that they aren’t great for you and the quality of your sleep is far from what it could be.
Let me assure you that you are NOT alone – millions of Americans don’t sleep well and many are dependent on sleeping aids.
Insomnia is not the problem.
Insomnia (as in both trouble falling and staying asleep) is just a symptom of something else going on in your body. Uncover what it is and many of your health issues may improve, not just sleep.
Before you say “But, I’ve tried it all”
When I went to get a sonogram it was early in the morning. The technician who performed the scan, excused herself saying that she needs to get some coffee first or else she won’t be able to function. When I asked her if she had a bad night’s sleep, she shared that she had not slept for years and assured me that she’s “tried it all.” Her doctor diagnosed her with a complex sounding condition and prescribed sleeping medications with doses “that would put out a horse,” in her words. When I asked her if she had tried taking magnesium or progesterone (she looks like someone headed for menopause hence dropping progesterone), she looked at me, puzzled, and said “No.” I asked her if her doctor has ever suggested it and she again replied in negative. These are the moment I want to scream at Western medicine.
Back to the technician. She told herself that “she’s tried it all” and surrendered to a miserable life of sleeping aids that will never give her a truly deep, restful sleep. Saying “I know it all” or “I’ve tried it all” puts us in a limiting belief system which makes a person stop searching and staying open to options. At Hormones Balance, we encourage you to stay open, curious, and unlimited.
We’ve prepared the below sleep checklist so you can tick off ALL the strategies before giving up or surrendering to sleeping pills. Be realistic and non-selective. I’ve met women addicted to caffeine who would refuse to stop drinking it by noon. Same with a glass of wine at night – which can be the very culprit of your poor sleep and night waking.
Let’s dive into the most common causes of insomnia and strategies that might help you.
Before we talk about the strategies, let me quickly cover why sleep is that important. Sleep is the foundation of good health and well-being.
Here are some of the reasons:
- Your body repairs and renews cells during sleep.
- Your liver does most of the detoxification during sleep; between 1 am and 3 am. Being awake compromises this function.
- Hormone and neurotransmitter regulation happens during sleep.
- Poor sleep can cause 15% less leptin (which makes you feel full and not hungry) and 20% more ghrelin (which makes you hungrier) – this means it’s easier to lose weight when you sleep more.
- We attain stable blood sugar balance after a good night’s sleep. When we do not – we crave sugar, carbohydrates, and coffee in the morning. After only four to six hours of sleep, your body finds it harder to stabilize blood sugars, shows research from the University of Chicago. Meanwhile, the fatty acids in the blood go up. The end result? Increased risk of elevated blood sugars, weight gain and diabetes type 2.
- Adrenals repair during sleep – overactive adrenals overproduce cortisol which can cause an array of health issues – see the article on adrenal health here.
If sleep and the science behind it fascinates you, I recommend reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep.
Top Sleep Strategies
1. Increase magnesium levels
Most women I work with suffer from low magnesium levels and don’t even realize it. This is probably because it’s not on most doctors’ radar and no common tests are available to confirm this deficiency. Common symptoms of low magnesium include poor sleep, leg cramps, shoulder tension, constipation, anxiety and edginess, depression and headaches. I have written a comprehensive article on the causation and how to fix this deficiency and another one on which form of magnesium is best to pick for your situation.
- Top up your magnesium levels: Having researched many forms of magnesium, I recommend (and personally take as well) glycinate form. I like it for its high bioavailability, high absorption rate, and non-laxative effect. Start with 250 to 300 mg per day and dose up until you get loose stool. Then, back off and continue at this dose.
- Try topical magnesium: If you suffer from many digestive problems and your absorption is compromised, you can replenish your magnesium reserves with topical magnesium that gets absorbed through the skin. I love using Quick Magnesium, in a gel form.
- Reduce stress: Stress and cortisol rob you of magnesium – replenish magnesium levels but also work on reducing stress.
2. Increase low progesterone
I have written extensively about progesterone’s role, reasons for it being low and how to fix it in this article.
In short: If you are suffering from symptoms such as irregular periods, PMS, mid-cycle spotting, infertility, anxiety, depression, and problems falling and staying asleep, low progesterone levels could be the culprit. Do not rely on blood tests to rule out low progesterone because serum-based labs are useless in showing you the true levels of steroid hormones (progesterone is a steroid hormone as well).
- Replenish progesterone levels: add the right nutrients, herbs, and supplements: article here. In short: nutrients such as zinc, vitamin E, vitamin B6 can help a ton in boosting natural progesterone production.
- Learn how to use seed rotation: It can help rebalance estrogen and progesterone levels. This surprisingly simple method has helped hundreds of women in our community.
- Try a topical progesterone cream: In times of stress (like during my book launch), I resort to topical progesterone because it helps me relax and sleep deeper. The one I use, love and recommend is ProgestPure.
- Reduce stress: Stress and cortisol rob you of progesterone (it happens through a phenomenon called “pregnenolone steal”). Easier said than done, but well, needs to be done.
3. Add sleep-promoting foods, herbs or blends
There are foods and herbs that can help with falling and staying asleep. In my experience, they are most often a good aid, not a solution. I see more often people resolving sleep issues by fixing their low magnesium, progesterone levels or stopping caffeine. But, the below recipes can help a great deal too:
- Ashwagandha Latte: This simple recipe is a favorite with people who get a sedative effect from this root. There is a chance it will do nothing for you. But, try and let us know in the comments!
- Kudzu root: Can help to fall asleep, try my Sleepy Lime Pudding. Kudzu is a root and the powder form is easily available in most health stores, in the Asian section.
- Herbal sleep blend: If you want to try an herbal blend synergistically crafted with vitamin B6, valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, l-theanine, GABA and a tiny amount of melatonin, try Sleep Restore.
You can learn how to add more hormone-balancing ingredients to your meals with our FREE 19 Estrogen Balancing Superfoods Guide here.
4. Lower stress and cortisol, learn to breath
When you’re always rushing and stressing, your body pumps out more adrenaline and cortisol. If these stress hormones are still circulating when you hit the sack, they keep your body in ‘fight or flight’ mode so your brain won’t allow you to fall into a deep sleep.
When my own partner was in a toxic work situation, his high cortisol prevented him from sleeping well and we tried every sleep remedy we knew. But once we moved away, his stress reduced. To our great relief, he has since been sleeping like a baby – because his ongoing stress is clearly no longer trying to keep him awake.
I have seen many of my clients with unresolved past traumas and PTSD experiencing the same issue. For many, the sleep problems went away when they sought proper treatment.
This might be a long-term solution and you may want more immediate results. A number of apps offer sleep hypnosis tracks, meditative music and gongs. I’ve personally found that if I’m upset at night, doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique calms me down immediately.
- Remove yourself from the stressor: If your job, relationship or living situation is a constant source of distress or conflict, seek support and change it.
- Talk about your feelings: With an empathetic partner, friend or relative. If you’re experiencing trauma, depression or anxiety, see a counselor.
- Keep a worry diary: Jot down your problems and a few solutions to debrief and get troubles off your mind before bed. Writing and journaling are highly cathartic.
- Try an adaptogenic blend: It will support your adrenals.
- Download an app: Try mobile apps such as Calm or Headspace.
- Breath: Learn the easy 4-7-8 breathing technique.
5. Block out the artificial light before bed
Artificial light interferes with your circadian rhythm and melatonin production. Blue, yellow and green light emitted by electronic bright light screen devices such as lamps, smartphones, computer screen, TVs, radio clocks or even outside street lamps, can interfere with melatonin production. The pineal gland needs total darkness in order to produce melatonin. Research from Harvard University shows that exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin for twice as long as other colors and can shift your body clock by as much as three hours. Even just eight lux of light can have an effect.
- Banish electrical devices: That means no clock radios, TVs, computers or their standby lights in your room 2 to 4 hours before and while you sleep. They can truly interfere with melatonin production in these vital night hours.
- Get light blocking glasses: If you have no choice and have to be exposed to light in the evening hours, get Blue Blocker glasses. People sensitive to lights experience a profound difference with these glasses. You won’t know until you try them, or make it a point to avoid all artificial light one evening and see how it helps your sleep.
- Get Sleep Crown (an over-the-head pillow): If you find eye masks too tight and are on the hunt for a more comfortable option to block out light, the Sleep Crown may just be it. The pillow goes over your head to not just block out light, but ambient noise, too. The Sleep Crown feels light as a feather and is cool to the touch thanks to the vegan down and bamboo jersey material. You can contour the pillow gently around your face, the gentle pressure calming the nervous system and helping you sleep. If you like the feel of weighted blankets and being tucked in, the Sleep Crown can be a great option for you. You can learn more about it here.
- Computer app: Install an app called f.lux. This reduces the blue wavelength coming from your screen, in favor of warmer and more sleep-friendly tones. It, however, does not block out the yellow and green lights which some people are sensitive to. I personally have found it to be only partially helpful.
- Enjoy a soft glow: At night, use candles or lamps instead of bright overhead electric lights. Need a toilet visit? Use a low-wattage flashlight or dim hall and bathroom globes with an amber glow.
- Open curtains on waking: This helps suppress melatonin levels, which should lower in the morning and rise at night.
- Breakfast al fresco: Go without your sunglasses for at least 10 minutes to ensure you get direct light exposure to your eyes.
- Set a sleep routine: Rise and retire at the same time every day to synchronize your body clock with light and dark.
6. Reduce alcohol before bed
Are you sure you want that chardonnay or shiraz? Alcohol might be a sedative and a relaxer, but many women observe that it triggers shallow sleep. This is partly because alcohol delays and shortens the slow wave and REM dreaming phases of the sleep cycle. And a few glasses of wine, beer or spirits, may also suppress your natural breathing pattern. Alcohol may also make you wake later from dehydration and thirst. And because it’s a bladder irritant and diuretic, you may also need to get up to pee!
Red wine can be a particular problem. It is high in natural chemicals called salicylates and amines, chemicals which can cause blocked nose and headaches in some people, waking them overnight.
- Well, quit booze before bedtime. Alternatively, drink earlier in the evening but not after 8 pm and always after food, not before.
- Savor an herbal tea: Choose valerian or chamomile for their calmative benefits.
7. Stop caffeine at noon
Love a good macchiato or strong cup of matcha tea? Don’t overdo it. Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which can keep your body on high alert for hours. Research at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows that caffeine can significantly disrupt your sleep six hours after your last hit. This is even more true for people who are slow caffeine metabolizers – even a decaf coffee will keep them awake! The point is: Try removing caffeine for 3 to 5 days and observe how has it changed your sleep.
- Set a caffeine curfew: That means no caffeinated tea or coffee after 12 midday.
- Try a coffee alternative: If you crave a milky hot drink, try this fabulous Chicory Latte. If you are sensitive to caffeine, quit it for 3 to 5 days altogether.
8. Skip the sugary late-night snacks
The worse choice of snacks before bed are:
- Ice cream
- Dessert yogurt
- Sweet wine
Ironically, that’s what many people end their dinner with. Have it on occasion as a special treat and not a daily habit. Try these instead.
- For healthy sleep-boosting snack options, check out my high protein snack recipes.
- Have an herbal tea such as chamomile, peppermint, rooibos or rose tea.
- If you have no choice and must drink alcohol, pick a bitter herbal digestif such as Amaro (in Italy), Jagermeister (in Germany) or Cognac (in France), over a sweet dessert wine.
9. What is the last thing you watch, do or think before bed?
I once attended a medical conference at which a neurologist shared that most of his child patients stopped urinating in bed when they stopped watching scary movies before bed. Why? Because what you read or watch before bed is what your brain continues processing during sleep.
- Pick carefully what you read or watch: Pass up on political debates, thrillers, and horror movies and opt for something soothing.
- Listen to sleep self-hypnosis tracks: I got some of mine here.
- Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) aka tapping for better sleep: This blog post and video explains how to do it. Many people have life-transformative results with EFT.
10. Try This Herb Blend
Sleep Restore is a blend of herbs with GABA, L-theanine, 5 HTP, and melatonin that prepares the mind and body for bed. The herbs in this formula have anti-anxiety and relaxing properties that wind down the body for sleep with the additional nutrients that quiet a chatty mind. This sleep formula is a good fit for those with adrenal stress, are perimenopausal or menopausal, or anyone that just wants a good night’s sleep.
It contains 3mg of melatonin which, research shows, is a dose that won’t inhibit your own production of melatonin. The common issue and worry (for the right reasons!) with using melatonin is that your pineal gland will stop producing its own. The 3mg dose is safe though.
Sleep Restore is made with non-GMO ingredients. Free of gluten, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar, and colors.
To learn more about how to balance your hormones with supplements (and which to take), you can download our FREE Supplement Guide here.
11. Take a Hot Bath
Hope bath relaxes the nervous system and improves blood flow to the brain which can be helpful in falling asleep. I further recommend using Epson salt (magnesium sulfate), magnesium salts (magnesium chloride) and baking soda. I’ve tested using my Oura ring and I do get more deep and REM sleep with hot salt baths. If you have an IR sauna, the heat would achieve the heat objective as well.
12. Tape Your Mouth
Yes, you read that right. For years, I resisted trying this method until one day I did and won’t be going back. As I entered perimenopause, my sleep has not been as consistent as before. I wake up at night, have trouble going back to sleep, I don’t feel as rested as in my 30-ties. Progesterone seems to be helping but not entirely. Ever since I started taping my mouth, Oura rings shows that not only my overall sleep pattern improved (none or one night waking versus multiple in the past) but I’m now also getting more Deep and REM sleep. I certainly feel it – getting up sharp, enthusiastic and deeply rested is most delightful and healing. To learn more about how it works, you can watch this interview.
13. Make a Sleep-Promoting Dream Pillow
If you have trouble falling into a restful sleep, you can try making your own sleep-promoting pillow using mugwort and lavender. Mugwort is used to o help people who have trouble dreaming, often due to stress, while lavender is used for its calming properties and to help relax the central nervous system. Learn how to make your own DIY Sleep-Promoting Pillow here.
Learn more with Overcoming Estrogen Dominance
“The body has an amazing ability to heal. We just need to give it the right resources.”
In Overcoming Estrogen Dominance, my goal is to empower and give you the tools to take control of your hormones and health.
More than 70% of women experience estrogen dominance. The symptoms range from lumpy and fibrocystic breasts to thyroid nodules, hot flashes, fibroids, uterine polyps, painful, heavy or irregular periods to infertility and miscarriages, from mood swings to insomnia, weight gain to fatigue.
So many women have experienced the pain and frustration that comes when they feel their symptoms and complaints are dismissed or minimized. This is particularly true for women who are experiencing the symptoms of hormone imbalance. Even when doctors do offer treatment, it’s typically in the form of prescription medication or invasive surgical procedures.
In Overcoming Estrogen Dominance, I hope to show that those extreme interventions are often unnecessary, and to give women a roadmap to reverse estrogen dominance using food, herbs, supplements and natural protocols to rebalance hormones.
To get your copy of Overcoming Estrogen Dominance, go here.
Do you have a question for us?
Dzien dobry, Magdalena!
I simply want to say ‘Dziekuje bardzo’ or ‘Thank you very much’ for putting together such a comprehensive article. It has so much valuable information in it, that for someone who is in the middle stages of implementing life improvements, it is very helpful, yet not overwhelming to see (in one place) just some of the many factors that influence ones health and well being.
Here’s to taking a page out of the European’s handbook for living and smelling the roses! : )
Thank you so much for your sweet comment here Anita!
Great article! Anyone interested in this stuff should definitely check out the book Everyday Roots. It teaches you how to replace all the toxic chemicals in your life with healthy organic alternatives. Its completely changed my life and how I feel everyday! 🙂
Heres a great review of everday roots: http://reggiesreview.weebly.com/everyday-roots-review.html
Keep up the great content!
Thank you for your recommendation Jamie 🙂
I am 54 and in perimenopause with periods about every other month. I am looking for some guidance on how to balance my hormones that does not involve HRT. My main issues are crepey skin, warm spurts at night, insomnia (can’t stay asleep), and saggy knees,
Yes, during this transitional time there are many steps you can take. To learn more you will want to contact support at [email protected] and check out Magdalena’s book http://a.co/dq0DSD1. It is a very comprehensive. resource. She focuses on gut healing, liver support and sugar balancing to assist the body in recalibrating. ~Deanna HB Team
Thank you for this wonderful information. I’m 61. In menopause 9 years. Have terrible facial hair and acne at times! Can you recommend something please? I do have Hashimotos. Thank you!!
[…] Avoid bright lights in the evening: Light can reduce your production of melatonin, which can delay sleep onset, reducing your hours of slumber. You can read more about this and other sleep-boosting strategies here. […]
[…] Less sleep means higher hunger, elevated insulin and blood glucose levels and weight gain. I explain this in greater depth in this article. […]
Since you say not to rely on regular blood tests to check progesterone levels, what tests do you recommend?
Tammy – the DUTCH test is a comprehensive test for hormones, which uses dried urine. I just completed it for myself and am waiting for the results. It generally isn’t covered by insurance and it was a little tricky to get the timing correct (if you are still having a monthly cycle, there is a specific time that the test should be completed). My understanding is that this test is pretty much the best there is when it comes to testing hormones.
I wondered if you can help answer a question for me. I am 50 and in peri-menopause. I am trying to do most of the suggested ways to balance hormones. I eat well, exercise, don’t drink coffee,pop or alcohol. I avoid sugar for the most part as well. I sleep fairly well. Although I struggle at certain times of the month with down days and motivation and a little anxiety. Do you think cyclic progesterone cream may help? Any thoughts appreciated! Thank you!
Hi Darlene, thank you for your question. Here is an article Magdalena wrote on progesterone cream that you might find helpful: https://hormonesbalance.com/articles/topical-progesterone-when-why-and-how-part-1/
~ Jeanne HB Team
I’m going through peri-menopause. Well, symptoms started in 2018, after my father returned home from a long stay in hospital. My breasts got swollen and I put weight on my thighs. My thighs still carry water weight and cellulite. My breasts are still swollen due to water weight. I took your quiz and the results showed that I had high cortisol and high estrogen. What would help to reduce my breasts so that I can fit into my old bras and also reduce the cellulite and weight on my thighs?
Thanks for yet another comprehensive and useful article.
I have recently been really struggling with fatigue, feeling really sleepy all day long and desperately needing more sleep – at the same time I’m pretty sure I am sleeping ok, except the fact that I seem to be constantly having weird dreams. It’s really effecting my life since I have been unable to work properly, I’ve had no life outside work, and my partner has been sleeping on the sofa for the last 6 weeks to help me rest (he snores). Would love to receive some advice about this. Thanks!
(Aged 32 with endometriosis and one blocked fallopian tube-the cause of which undetermined, lots of pain during ovulation but medium severity periods)
Hi Anne, Hormones go out of balance when the “perfect storm” hits; typically caused by stress, nutritional deficiencies, poor sleep, diet and toxicity You can take the quiz at http://www.hormonesbalance.com/quiz to see what hormones might be out of balance. Let us know what you discover! ~ Jeanne HB Team
I tried Tyrell’s sleep tunes and they are relaxing but didn’t help my sleep. Your comment on magnesium and progesterone hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t sleep anxiety for me, it was adding those 2 supplements, along with GABA and Valerian that gave me my healthy sleep cycles back.
Thank you so much for sharing what worked for you, Rebecca:)
~ Jeanne HB Team
I’ve been using the castor oil packs Magdalena recommends. At first it was helping me sleep like a baby but after 3-4 days i cut back the amount of oil bc it seemed pretty oily. It’s cleaning me out but I’m not sleeping now again. Should i go back to 2 T a night or more?
Hi Cheryl, I’m glad to hear the castor oil pack was working for you. All you need is the recommended does of 2 TBS or less. ~ Jeanne HB Team
Can you please share a link to utilizing these packs to assist with sleep? Phenomenal article, btw!! The most COMPREHENSIVE I have read as a therapist and as a patient! Impressive! Thanks kindly ! Sunny blessings to you & your team!
This is an excellent article!!! Thank you so much:)
[…] do affect things like cortisol and melatonin levels, which can dramatically affect our ability to fall and stay asleep. Maintaining a healthy hormonal balance is the key to getting quality sleep. Even though balancing […]
I am a 35 year old woman with PCOS. I have been having horrible insomnia and really bad PMS, really painful cramping. I believe something is off hormonally with me, and hoping to find the root cause of my insomnia so that I can fix it and start sleeping.
My endocrinologist wants me to do blood tests – are there specific ones I should make sure she’s having me do?
Is the DUTCH test that much more accurate than blood tests?
Hi Ash, here is a link to the lab work we suggest: https://hormonesbalance.com/articles/what-lab-tests-to-order-to-manage-your-hormones/
Yes, the Dutch test is the most accurate and comprehensive, but you need a skilled practitioner to help interpret the results. If you need help locating one, please email us at [email protected] for recommendations.
PSOS, insomnia and PMS are symptoms of estrogen dominance. Have you watched our Estrogen Reset Program preview yet? Here is a link to register for the 5 day program preview, if interested: https://hormonesbalance.com/er/
~ Jeanne HB Team
Thanks for being so helpful and real in helping so many people feel and live better. I already had been getting info on Hashimotos from Isabella Wentz so it was great to see your friends. I have been learning more in the past 2 yrs of valuable ways to improve and deal with Hashimoto thyroiditis, nothing I was going to learn from conventional endocrinologists. Sad but true, so I do everything I can to pass on resources to others I meet daily in the service industry who are also tired of rx as only answer doctors give out. I am so glad to keep learning of non-toxic solutions for everything in life. Be blessed and thanks for all your hard work in getting us the facts to having a healthy life and be able to enjoy it!
Thank you for your kind words!
Wishing you success on your healing journey. – Taylor HB Team
[…] To learn more ways to get better sleep (which is VITAL to hormone health), read our 11 Sleep Strategies to Help the Hormones, Waistline, Mood and Cravings. […]
[…] written a long and detailed article here about restoring your sleep by removing the key root causes (and not simply relying on melatonin and […]
I was waking up around 2 am/3 am and unable to fall asleep for an hour or 2. Would happen about 2-3 times a week. Have been exercising daily and it has not happened at all since I started back to working out. Can’t say I have changed anything else .
I had never heard the advice to drink alcohol only after eating food, if you are going to drink. Can you help me understand why.
Thanks so much.
It can be dangerous to drink on an empty stomach. Food prevents alcohol from passing quickly into your small intestine. When there is food in your stomach before drinking, alcohol is absorbed more slowly.
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[…] For better sleep, try these 11 sleep strategies outlined in our article here. […]
Are you able to advise if Melatonin and Valerian are ok if you’re trying to conceive?
[…] Lack of sleep: Advertisers make food seem incredibly appealing with pictures and catchy slogans. With lots of sleep it’s easier to resist their messages, but lack of sleep makes you susceptible to craving sweet food that is high in sugar, salt and fat. If you need more sleep check out these 11 tips here. […]
The average adult needs 7-10 hours of sleep per day according to the recommendations of experts. However, there are alternative techniques that can achieve the same quality of sleep, but with fewer hours spent sleeping. Much less.
Maeng da kratom is used to get relief from chronic pains, remove anxiousness, mind wellness as well as for enhancing mood. Furthermore, people can reduce their stress and depression by using this herb. This has lots of health benefits.
Sleep and health are strongly interconnected. Sleep deprivation raises the risk of sickness, and illness makes it more difficult to sleep. Obtain some gummies to make better usage of your health. Thank you for such a useful blog!! – Nidra Nutrition