I can remember when my best friend walked out the door 4 years ago. It felt sudden, I didn’t quite know what hit me and I definitely could not sleep. For months I would wake up every morning at 2:37 am flipping around my bed drenched in a cold sweat on a hot body. The lack of solid sleep left me in daytime brain fog, a low energy state, irritable and confused about what happened to the peak performing me I had always been.
It was my 50th birthday and when my best friend, ESTROGEN, walked out the door, despite being a surgeon with a meticulous medical education, it felt like a surprise and like so many women, I wasn’t ready for it. Estrogen is the BFF we take for granted in our lives until she leaves, and we suddenly realize everything she meant to our bodies. We commonly only think about estrogen in terms of reproduction, but estrogen actually plays a critical role in nearly every body function from our brains, to our hearts, our musculoskeletal system and especially our SLEEP.
Estrogen plays several critical roles in getting a good night’s sleep.
- Estrogen plays a role in the metabolism of a neurotransmitter made in our brainstem called serotonin which role in our sleep-wake cycle via its role as a precursor to melatonin synthesis- the main hormone controlling sleep induction.
- Estrogen works to keep our body temperature low at night via augmentation of the heat dissipation responses in our body including vasodilation and also acts directly on the hypothalamus, a part of the brain responsible for temperature regulation.
- The positive effect of estrogen on mood has been known for more than 100 years and is thought to have a mood regulatory and an anti-depressant effect. Rapid changes in and absolute decline in estrogen levels can have a profound mood-altering effect on the brain via interruptive thoughts and altered sleep induction.
The good news is that loss of Estrogen, and the sleep alterations that follow, need not be forever. For many women, estrogen and hormone replacement therapy can significantly diminish sleep complaints in peri and post-menopausal women and return you to a well-rested state.
Every woman needs to decide, with her doctor, whether estrogen or hormone replacement is right for her. The resource I found to be most helpful was a book called “Estrogen Matters” by Avril Blooming and Carol Tavris and frankly, for me it was life changing. I have replaced my own native BFF estrogen and in doing so have filled my nights with rest instead of rest-less-ness.
Vonda Wright, MD, MS
Dr Wright is a double boarded Orthopaedic Sports Surgeon, author, speaker and team doctor who harnesses the power of sleep, smart nutrition and mobility to change the way we age in this country. An internationally recognized authority of aging and women’s health she founded the /Ajles.Life/ movement and Precision Longevity Experience to equip people to live MORE every moment and face a future where the best is yet to come. Read more from Dr Wright at or IG- @DrVondaWright