When you consider what it takes to get a good night’s sleep, a lot of things probably come to mind. The bed usually comes to mind first. Is it comfortable? Is it familiar? Do you have the right pillows? Next, it’s probably your surroundings. Is it dark enough? Is it quiet? Your local Any Lab Test Now can’t do much about the state of your mattress and pillows, but we can try to help you get a better night’s sleep.
For some people, having just one thing slightly off can make all the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. So many things can affect our slumber that many of us don’t really consider one of the most important factors: our hormones. They play a huge role in not only our ability to get sufficient sleep, but also in the quality of our rest. And while many different hormones play a part, there are two that are center stage in the sleep arena: melatonin and cortisol.
Melatonin: The Rhythm of the Night
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland and it is vital to your body’s ability to regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Scientists say that the level of melatonin in your body should begin to rise as the sun goes down, preparing your body for sleep. The level should peak in the early morning hours just before dawn, then begin dropping after you wake. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), high levels of melatonin at 8 a.m. were more than a wake-up call. They were associated with:
- Better quality sleep
- Lower depression scores
- Better attention spans
- Better visual memory
- Better at arithmetic
If these levels are off, or if the rhythms are disrupted, you could find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night.
Cortisol; Co-Star of the Sleep Show
Cortisol is often called the “stress” hormone because levels in the blood rise during times of extreme stress. It’s responsible for your body’s “fight or flight” response, but it’s also critical for everyday bodily functions. Cortisol should take over where melatonin leaves off. Scientists say cortisol levels should rise 30 minutes to one hour after you wake up. It’s what gets you going in the morning. They will gradually drop to their lowest levels in the evening so you can calm down and go to sleep. But the problem comes in to play when excess stress keeps your cortisol levels high. This keeps you awake, which usually leads you to turn on lights, which lowers your melatonin levels, creating a vicious cycle.
Are Your Hormones Working Together?
If these two hormones aren’t playing nice on a regular basis, you could be in for bigger trouble than just a few sleepless nights. Disturbed sleep has been associated with:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
Testing for a Better Night’s Sleep
So how can Any Lab Test Now help you find your way to a better night’s sleep? It’s easier than you might think! It’s a simple test, that you take at home, that will provide you and your doctor with information about your levels of cortisol and melatonin throughout the day and night. The Sleep Balance Take Home Hormone Kit is a simple urine test requiring urine collection on test strips at four different times.
First, urine is collected when you wake up, so your nighttime melatonin levels can be checked. About two hours later, a second collection will measure your cortisol awakening response. The third collection is in the evening when both your melatonin and cortisol levels should be low. Finally, the last test is performed just before bed, where your melatonin level should be rising for sleep and your cortisol should be at its lowest level of the day.
Your First Day to a Better Night’s Sleep