Your hormones play a key role in controlling your energy levels. If they’re out of balance it can make you feel tired and cause sleep problems. Understand why this happens and what you can do about it.
- How hormones affect your energy levels
- Thyroid hormones and energy
- Oestrogen and energy
- Progesterone and energy
- Testosterone and energy
- Cortisol and energy
- Other factors that can affect your energy levels
- How to improve your energy levels
How hormones affect your energy levels
Your hormones are chemicals that play a key role in controlling your body’s processes — for example, your body temperature and heart rate. If these powerful chemicals are out of balance, even by a small amount, it can cause a wide range of symptoms. This includes feeling tired and having trouble sleeping.
Thyroid hormones and energy
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that help control your metabolism. If you don’t make enough of these hormones it’s called an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). If you make too much of these hormones it’s called an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
If your thyroid is underactive your bodily processes start to “slow down” and you might feel tired, have memory problems, and feel depressed. While if your thyroid is overactive you might feel restless, anxious, and have trouble switching off causing sleep problems.
You can measure your thyroid function using a home blood test or through your GP.
Oestrogen and energy
Having the right balance of oestrogen is thought to help maintain good energy levels. So if your oestrogen levels are low, which can happen for a wide range of reasons, you might feel tired.
Oestrogen and your monthly cycle
Your oestrogen levels fluctuate throughout your monthly cycle. In the first two weeks of your cycle, your oestrogen levels increase and this is associated with higher energy levels. In the third week of your cycle, your oestrogen levels drop so it’s associated with lower energy levels.
The most common causes of low oestrogen levels include:
- exercising too much
- not eating enough — including eating disorders like anorexia
- early menopause (premature ovarian failure)
- medical conditions — for example, chronic kidney disease (CKD) or Turner syndrome
Oestrogen and menopause
As you age and approach menopause, your oestrogen levels naturally decrease. So it’s very common to experience tiredness and fatigue at this time. Mood swings, headaches, and finding it hard to concentrate are also common menopausal symptoms.
Progesterone and energy
Progesterone is better known for triggering ovulation. However, it also promotes sleep which is why it’s sometimes called a ‘sleepy hormone’. It does this by stimulating your brain to produce a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) — which helps you ‘switch off’ and sleep.
Your progesterone levels can fluctuate a lot, affecting your sleep and energy levels.
Progesterone and your monthly cycle
Your progesterone levels are usually highest in week three of your cycle — meaning more GABA is produced. This can make you feel more tired. However, you might notice that you’re sleeping better which can boost your energy levels.
In week four of your cycle, your progesterone levels fall. This means less GABA is produced and you might have trouble sleeping, leading to tiredness.
Progesterone and menopause
As you age and approach menopause, your progesterone levels naturally decrease. This is another reason why it’s so common to experience tiredness and sleep problems during this time.
Testosterone and energy
Testosterone is often called a “male” hormone. But it’s also really important for women’s health — you just produce it in much lower amounts. If your testosterone levels are low it can cause extreme tiredness and fatigue. This is largely because testosterone is needed to produce red blood cells — these help carry oxygen around your body which is important for energy.
Your testosterone levels naturally drop with age. But low testosterone in women can also be caused by the pill (oral contraception) or issues with your ovaries.
Cortisol and energy
Cortisol is a hormone that plays a really important role in helping your body cope with stress. Unfortunately, we now live in an environment where it’s common to feel stressed a lot. This leads to high cortisol levels which can cause difficulty sleeping, tiredness, poor concentration, and irritability.
Other factors that can affect your energy levels
If your hormones aren’t to blame for low energy levels, there are lots of other things that could be the cause. These include:
- nutrient deficiencies — for example, iron or vitamin D deficiency
- not exercising enough
- anxiety and depression
- sleep problems
- medical conditions — for example, diabetes
How to improve your energy levels
Firstly, you need to understand what’s causing your low energy levels. If you think your hormones might be the cause you can measure your levels with a home blood test. And depending on this, it’s likely that there are loads of things you can do to increase your energy levels.
If you’re not sure what the issue might be, it’s worth speaking with a health professional to get to the bottom of it.
Recommended listening for you
Clegg, D. J. (2012). Minireview: the year in review of estrogen regulation of metabolism. Molecular Endocrinology, 26(12), 1957-1960.
Gottesmann, C. (2002). GABA mechanisms and sleep. Neuroscience, 111(2), 231-239.
Manber, R., & Armitage, R. (1999). Sex, steroids, and sleep: a review. Sleep, 22(5), 540-541.