• Micah Kidd

Sleep and hormone imbalance

(First of all I am a teacher one the west coast. I know what it’s like to wake up at 2am to do something you love. I get it. I am not trying to tell people what to do, I just feel like we need to know. I want to help add years to your life. I want to save someone’s mother or father. I want to change the world. )

Choices you make will help determine how the story ends.

Last week I talked about weight gain. The idea there was to set the stage for a story I am going to tell. You get to be in the story and it’s a “choose your own adventure” story.

Weight gain and how it is often the first symptom teachers will notice when they start teaching.

It’s a hormonal Imbalance not a caloric imbalance.

Why? Is it because I am moving less? Eating more? It could be that certainly plays a role. This line of thought speaks to the law of thermodynamics that says that weight gain is a result of caloric imbalance. Faithful followers of this rhetoric will say that nothing else matters, and while I can agree to some point, here is the problem. Hormones impact how our metabolism(how we burn calories) thus hormones absolutely play a factor in weight gain and weight loss.

Sleep is a major hormone disruptor

The typical nine to fiver probably does not struggle nearly as much as we do with hormone regulation. Before I get too much deeper into this perhaps we should briefly discuss what hormones are.

Hormones are chemical messengers transported through the blood that help regulate the behavior of most if not all physiological processes.

  • influencing the metabolism of cells

  • assisting in the growth and development of body parts,

  • and helping the body to achieve homeostasis or balance, which is essential to our health and well-being.

When we don’t get enough sleep, this critically affects our appetite-controlling hormones, our metabolism and how we think and feel.

Our metabolism is managed by the endocrine and central nervous systems. Sleep plays a vital role in our hormonal system, and in times of sleep deprivation the production of certain hormones is substantially reduced. Research now shows that this direct link between sleep and the production of the hormones of metabolism affects the ease with which we gain weight and the difficulty with which we lose it.

Numerous population studies have examined the effect of sleep on weight gain and on the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes – both being indicators of an unhealthy metabolism. As a result of these studies we now know it is no coincidence that during the last 40 -50 years, when we have seen a year-on-year increase in the rate of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, our society has also experienced a year-on-year decrease in the amount of hours slept per night.

Our hormones are under circadian control

If that weren’t enough, most of us are working some sort of night shift meaning our circadian rhythm is out of sync. Our hormones are designed to switch “on” and “off” at certain times of the day and night.

When we expose ourselves to artificial light, eat at odd times and have an irregular sleep/wake pattern it heavily alters the functional capacity of our hormones.

Key Players

Some of the key players are(but not limited too) melatonin, which is reduced as a result of light exposure during night shift and appears to have a major effect on energy metabolism; cortisol, insulin and two of the appetite regulating hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Growth hormone is also heavily impacted which in the case of adults helps the restoration process.

Our appetite, metabolism and ability to recharge are severely altered. From a caloric standpoint this hormone alteration adds up to about to an equivalence of an extra 350–500 kcal per day.

It doesn’t come close to stopping there. The really fascinating aspect is that these hormones have a synergistic relationship with many other hormones and what results is a system wide endocrine disruption. It’s a domino effect. Female reproductive hormones are also greatly affected and that will be another article.

In summary: Disruptions to our hormones caused by sleep deprivation and circadian disruption can lead to things like insulin resistance, weight gain, reduced energy, depression and a prolonged response to stress.

Not the happiest of news, I know, but I feel its information which needs to be highlighted and shared.

There is nothing wrong with you if you’re struggling to cope with working nights.

There’s a reason why night shift is hard. Our bodies are not biochemically designed or adapted to work it, and probably never will be.

Choose your own adventure

However, you can certainly improve your resilience by choosing to make your health the number 1 priority. That means making good decisions in regards to what you put into your mouth, how you move and how you sleep every single day, because it’s not what you do occasionally that matters, but what you do on a consistent basis that is going to have the most positive effect.

And the only person who can do this is YOU. You get to choose how this story ends.

I believe in my next article I will talk about how nutrition can help support our hormone system and sleep. It’s about eating more whole foods and less of the highly refined and processed stuff.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

The sole purpose of this site is to serve as a resource of online ESL teachers. To educate and promote safe occupational health measures that to enhance the teaching experience.