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PCOS and Sleep

Its far underrated role in our foundation of health

Ahhhh sleep…Sleep is a beautiful and rejuvenating experience, or at least it should be. Our society far underrates sleep and its impact it can have on all facets of our health, whether that’s a positive impact or a negative impact. We are a go-go-go society, and although it is a treasured way to view things, we also need to find our time to rejuvenate and replenish our energy. Not getting quality sleep doesn’t only cause issues with our wellbeing, but it can heavily impact our hormonal balance, and as you know, this is something in which we already struggle a great deal. Let’s walk through what hormones can be influenced, even with subtle decreases in sleep.

Sleep deprivation & hormones

CORTISOL – According to a variety of studies that analyzed partial sleep deprivation (6.5 hours per night), it was shown that the pituitary-dependent stress hormone cortisol was increased during the early evening hours, in which levels should be steadily decreasing around that time period. Knutson and her team stated that an increase in evening cortisol levels can promote the environment for the development of insulin resistance and eventually Type II Diabetes, which is something we are already at a higher risk of developing.

GnRH – It was also noted by Knutson and her team that the pulses of GnRH are disregulated occurring at different times than they normally should. For example, GnRH is normally released in a single pulse right as the onset of sleep occurs, but when you are partially sleep deprived, this leads to double GnRH pulses, one occurring right before sleep and one occurring right after awakening. Due to these “split” pulses of GnRH, this leads to excessive exposure of GnRH to our peripheral tissues over an extended period of time, which Knutson and her team stated could have an adverse effect on glucose tolerance, which indicates another issue for potential development of insulin resistance and Type II Diabetes.

As you’ve already learned, we struggle with excess stimulation of GnRH leading to issues with excessive LH, which interferes with our menstrual cycle, and if we add sleep deprivation on top of it, even partial sleep deprivation, we can heavily interfere with our hormonal cycle in yet another way.

LEPTIN and GHRELIN – Leptin is a hormone that is released by adipose cells (fat cells) and signals satiety, which suppresses appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that is released by the stomach and stimulates appetite. According to Knutson and her team, those with full sleep deprivation (4 hours per night) struggled greatly with regulating leptin and ghrelin. What these studies stated was that leptin, the hunger suppressing hormone, was far less than in a well-rested individual, and ghrelin, the hunger stimulating hormone, was far greater than in a well-rested individual. What this lead to is a much larger uptake of calories leading to potential development of obesity in those that were sleep deprived.


Take home message-Knowledge IS PowerPCOS Balance, PCOS and Caffeine

Sleep deprivation in the normal body can negatively impact physical health, but sleep deprivation in the PCOS body can be downright detrimental to our health. It targets the exact issues that we already struggle with in the first place, our hormonal balance, insulin resistance and increased appetite due to insulin resistance. It’s crucial for us to ensure we get good, quality sleep and if you’re struggling with this, think about working with our ACE FITNESS Certified Health Coach to help get you on the right track, give you great tips, tools, resources and guidance to ensure that you work your way up to quality and rejuvenating sleep. Good sleep = better hormonal balance = less PCOS symptoms; the calculation is simple!


Knutson, K, Leproult, R., Spiegel, K, & Van Cauter, E. (2005). The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825