Do Hormones Affect Fatigue? 6 Ways Hormonal Changes Can Make You More Tired Than Usual

When people hear the word “hormones,” many of them automatically think about puberty and adolescence, or about their birth control. However, hormones go way beyond the reproductive organs, and exist throughout your endocrine system — a system of glands in your body that secrete special chemicals that influence a large portion of your bodily functions. This includes everything from tissue growth and metabolism, to the efficiency of your immune system. Hormones have an especially large impact on energy, and long time, chronic fatigue sufferers have been shown to often have hormonal deficiencies.

Not only can hormone production affect fatigue and energy levels throughout the day, but the quality of your sleep also determines how well hormones are produced during the night. A full seven to eight hours of sleep induces the release of the human growth hormone, which helps support your endocrine system. Hormone imbalances can be hard to spot since, many times, they co-occur with other disorders or are just a flat-out symptom of another illness. If you are not diagnosed with a chronic illness, but can’t seem to get over your midday exhaustion, it may be time to ask your doctor to check for a hormone imbalance. Here are six sneaky ways your hormones could be making you more tired than usual, and how to improve your body’s production of them.

High cortisol levels can keep you awake, and later fatigued

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Cortisol, often referred to as “the stress hormone,” is your body’s essential way of maintaining and regulating homeostasis (aka, your body’s balanced response to anxiety-provoking situations). The important hormone is produced in your adrenal cortex, the outer area of your adrenal glands, and you can face some serious low energy if cortisol isn’t being properly produced or released into your body. In fact, cortisol is so interconnected to tiredness there is a disorder called Adrenal Fatigue, which is characterized by high levels of cortisol during a physical or emotional crisis, and extremely low energy afterwards. High cortisol levels and Adrenal Fatigue is especially found in people with anxiety disorders, so incorporating healthy habits that lower anxiety levels can help normalize the production of this hormone.

If your estrogen is off, it could make you tired

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Estrogen refers to a group of hormones (estrone, estradiol, and estriol) that are crucial to sexual and reproductive health — the instrumental hormone regulates menstruation, puberty, bone formation, blood clotting, and many other biological functions. If your estrogen level is too high or too low, you may experience bouts of fatigue. Estrogen levels are directly connected to endometriosis, and estrogen dominance plays a critical role in the development of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) — it’s no surprise that one of the most common symptoms of both these reproductive health issues is fatigue. And to the people who don’t have a uterus: you can still experience chronic fatigue caused by estrogen imbalance, too. Male-bodied people are known for producing more testosterone, but their bodies still need estrogen hormones to keep them healthy — especially in old age. Any imbalance, and you could be feeling it in unexpected ways.

Leptin resistance can cause a whole host of health issues that mimic symptoms of depression

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Leptin, aka the "feeling-full" hormone, is the main player in your hunger cues and metabolism, and sends signals to your body  when you need to store or burn extra fat. If the hormone is not being secreted correctly due to anything from chronic emotional distress to chemical imbalances in your hypothalamus, you could form leptin resistance: a disorder that prevents you from producing the hormone, and leaves you feeling sick, fatigued, and hungry 24/7, despite how much you eat or sleep. Basically, without healthy production of this hormone, you can easily get caught in a vicious cycle of mental health issues that trigger physical issues, and vice versa. Simple ways to improve leptin production include upping your veggie intake, or making an effort to be active a little bit each day, according to HuffPost.

If you're sleep-inducing hormones are out of sync, you probably won't get a good night's rest

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Melatonin tablets are commonly found in homeopathic section at drugstores, but did you know your body produces the hormone naturally? Melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland, and helps maintain your body’s circadian rhythm: the 24-hour, internal clock all living things possess that tells you when to eat, sleep, and be active. Though melatonin is not the essential hormone for sleep, humans are shown to sleep better when it is secreted Some professionals suggest foregoing over-the-counter melatonin meds if this hormone is out of balance for you, but you can increase your natural production of melatonin (and slow down cortisol production) by doing things like decreasing artificial light at night, and taking a hot bath. Some of these healthy behaviors that increase melatonin production will also aid in your body’s production of other sleep-inducing hormones.

Low insulin levels is guaranteed to lead to low energy

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The hormone insulin is one of the most important chemicals in your body; it monitors your blood sugar levels, and allows your body to convert or store energy from sugar and carbohydrates. If there is a shift in your insulin production, you could be facing major health issues. Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin production in the pancreas, and one of the main symptoms reported by people with diabetes is chronic fatigue. But, you don’t have to be diagnosed with the autoimmune disease to have discrepancies in your insulin hormone levels, and therefore feel fatigued. It is believed that 86 million American adults are prediabetic, according to the CDC, and at risk for developing Type II Diabetes. Just like with leptin, you can form a resistance to insulin that leaves you exhausted.

Thyroid disorders are known for causing chronic fatigue

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Your thyroid gland, in the front of your neck, secretes hormones that help regulate your metabolism, heart functions, muscle control, energy levels, and more. So, if your thyroid gland isn't producing hormones correctly, your health could easily be thrown out of whack. Hypothyroidism is when your body makes too little of thyroid hormones, while hyperthyroidism is when your body produces too much of these hormones. Either way, many doctors agree that fatigue is the main symptom of thyroid disorders. It is also believed that around 10 percent of women have some type of thyroid hormone deficiency, so if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue, this could be the culprit.

Maintaining your hormonal health is key to maintaining your overall wellness, both physically and mentally. While it may feel overwhelming to positively influence your hormone production, simply getting back to the basics, and balancing your daily activities can make all the difference. Hormonal health is seriously important, so don't let chronic fatigue go unchecked.