Sleep, Hormones and Your Health

Our sleep patterns and our hormonal production are like two people, end to end on a tug of war rope. They respond to each other in a way that can either leave you feeling energetic and well, or lethargic and inflamed.

If your hormones are not regulating and pulling their weight, then sleep will be a priority. Your body will be lethargic and craving more rest. If sleep is not taking priority, then the hormones are going to be out of control and increasing inflammation through every body system. Sleep and hormones need to be as strong as each other in a perfect balance to keep the rope steady, and you feeling healthy and thriving.

There are over 50 different hormones in our body and they are responsible for a range of bodily functions, including metabolism, appetite, growth, body temperature sexual function (including drive and reproduction), heart rate, blood pressure, and of course our sleep-wake cycles.

Many hormones act by binding to receptors that are produced within cells. These receptors carry out the hormone’s instructions, either by altering the cell’s existing proteins or by turning on genes that will build a new protein. This hormone-receptor complex switches on or switches off the specific biological processes in cells, tissues, and organs.

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our sleep-wake cycle. It is produced by the pineal gland and triggered by light to tell us to fall asleep, stay asleep and then wake up. In response to this circadian rhythm nearly every other hormone in our body is released and signaled to react and function. Who knew our hormones were such intricate little clogs in a clockwork system.

The most valuable of hormones that our sleep regulates is cortisol, our stress hormone. Melatonin and cortisol are hormones that have a seesaw effect on each other.

When melatonin is at its peak cortisol should be at its lowest, which is what makes relaxation a powerful tool for a quality deep sleep. In turn, once we wake in the morning cortisol should peak within 30 minutes, setting off its own signal for other hormones to react and get us moving for the day ahead. When sleep is disrupted or when we ignore our tired signs, our cortisol levels can be elevated leaving us in a state of feeling wired but tired.

Some of the noteworthy hormones affected by both melatonin and cortisol are our hunger hormones – insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. These control our blood sugar regulation, satiety, and appetite. Sleep naturally brings on a time to rest and digest. When normal sleeping patterns are interrupted, say by a rotating roster, suddenly the hormones we rely on to control our food cravings and appetite are no longer working in our favor. This is why people who work night shifts have an increased risk of metabolic disorders and weight gain. Reducing added sugar and limiting the time frame in which you are eating your meals can help to prevent these unwanted side effects of sleep dysregulation.

There are many other endocrine disruptors besides sleep so if you’re having issues with hormonal regulation don’t leave it until it’s spiraling out of control. Seek support for your symptoms and manage it according to your health professional. Correcting nutritional deficiencies, balancing dietary intake and making easy sleep hygiene lifestyle changes can make a world of difference to your energy, fatigue, inflammation and recovery.


This is something I am very passionate about. After 5 years of working in a retail health food shop and now practicing clinical nutrition, this is one of the most underestimated, important factors of nutritional medicine. Hence why this blog is longer than most of my others. So how do you know what supplements are good quality? 

First of all, look for the AUST L number in packaging of the supplement. This number shows that the product is included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). The AUST L number is used for the prevention of diseases and health conditions. This shows that the supplement has been assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness or that the ingredients used in the supplement are all pre-approved, low-risk ingredients. Australian and some New Zealand product ranges, will specify this on the label. Know the difference between a supplement and a food product. Supplements will have a AUST L number and food products won’t. Food products are often sports health products and/or wellness superfoods. Get in touch if you have more questions about food products. 

Most Importantly! Be aware of buying supplements online. Supplements in Australia are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) whereas the laws for the consumption of products are different in foreign companies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may be regulated differently due to dosage or ingredients, and it is best to consult your health care practitioner before buying online. I recently had a patient that was prepared to buy a supplement online for her 5 year old child that was not TGA approved and 5x the dosage that should’ve been given to a child that age. Please be careful. 

Where you can, support local business. Look to your local health food shop or compounding pharmacy. They will have qualified staff available to offer you expert advice. They will be able to direct you to supplements that offer scientific research articles with their products. (HINT: For other practitioners or retail staff this is usually in the product manual!)

Okay, so back to the labelling. Quality supplements will state on the label “free from gluten, dairy” etc, you should use this as an indication of what excipients are being used in the formula. These are the other ingredients, alongside the “active ingredients”, that make up the capsule, tablet or powder. Excipients can include anticaking agents, fillers, bulking agents and stabilizers.

When looking at probiotics supplements, they should list the genus, species and strain of bacteria on the label. For herbal formulations, they should specify the common name and the botanical name on the label, in case of adulterated botanical species, or renamed species. Labelling laws will require supplements to have specific facts such as active ingredients and dosage, but the more upfront a company is about the ingredients they use the more you can trust them to be providing you with a quality product. 

Now, let’s talk about pricing. Generally quality supplements are more expensive than budget products, this is because they have higher quality ingredients and those ingredients will cost more, hence the higher RRP. I always like to put this in perspective for people, you wouldn’t look at budget tools if you were an expert tradie and expect them to do the job you need to do, you would buy the best quality tools so you can be more efficient in the work you do. The body is the same, give it the best quality supplements in order for the body to effectively utilize the nutrients. 

Bigger isn’t always better, it’s how you use it. I’m talking about dosage of course! Some health food and pharmaceutical companies choose to give high doses, less often, and for some people this is quite effective and they have the research articles to prove it. I want you to know that you are an individual! You have a different dietary intake, health conditions, possibly medications, and genetic make up to those around you. Speak to your healthcare practitioner and they can help you understand the correct dosage and formulation for you. 

Still unsure about what to buy? Most brands will have a company contact number on the back of the product, call the company and ask some questions:

  • About the manufacturing process
  • Where they are manufactured
  • Where they source their ingredients for the formulation
  • For fridge products, how they maintain stable environments during transportation
  • Patented ingredients
  • If they can send you any research studies on their products

Ask for help. If you are unsure if the supplement is the right one for you please see your practitioner or ring the product company and ask if they have a practitioner on hand to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to contact your practitioner, if they have prescribed a product that you are not sure, is the right one for you. AND organise a supplementation review, if you are planning pregnancy, are pregnant, lactating, begin any new medications, or are undergoing any medical procedures. Click here to book your supplement review now.


You can walk into any supermarket, chemist or health food shop and see a wall of supplements. You want something for sleep but where do you start? Well first of all, every brand out there will have their own formulation of a sleep supplement claiming that it is the best and don’t bother trying anything else. 

There are a number of well researched nutrients, herbs and patented plant and chemical extracts for quality NREM & REM sleep, onset of sleep, and sleep associated conditions. Supplementation should always be personalised and individual. What works for one person does not always work for another, despite the number of research papers done on that particular branded formulation. So before you start supplement shopping to improve your sleep, consider your associated symptoms. Maybe your poor sleep is caused by pain in certain muscles, or overthinking because you have had a stressful day, or urinary because you’re waking up regularly to use the bathroom, or that you are not feeling sleepy until a certain time. Consider your supplement dosage as well, biggest doesn’t always mean best. Some extracts are best taken in smaller doses more regularly and individual height and weight can help determine the ideal dosage.

Some nutritional supplements and their recommended dosage for you to consider:

Magnesium – One of the most popular ingredients in off the shelf sleep supplements. Magnesium functions in the body by promoting cellular energy production, inhibiting muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission and improving immune response. It is used therapeutically for restless legs syndrome, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, and insomnia. Magnesium comes in a variety of compounds such as citrate, oxide, orotate, glycinate, chelate, sulfide and chloride. Each compounded formula has its own therapeutic properties so getting the right one for you is key. Generally speaking for sleep related conditions look for a magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate in a capsule, tablet or powder. Dosing can vary for sleep support from around 300mg – 800mg a day. 

Glycine – Glycine is an amino acid that performs a variety of biochemical functions in the brain. It plays a role in memory retrieval, regulating neurotransmitters, immune modulation and reducing inflammation. Glycine can improve sleep quality of the NREM sleep stage, clear headaches and decrease fatigue from poor sleep. Glycine is usually found in powdered form and the safe recommended dosing is 200mg/kg body weight/day. Do not exceed 30g a day.

Tryptophan – Tryptophan is another amino acid but this one is the precursor to two important hormones. Serotonin; which is our happy hormone and melatonin; our hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Tryptophan can be used clinically to treat insomnia, anxiety and stress. This is the ideal supplement for the over-thinking mind that won’t let you get to sleep, day-time fatigue and low mood. Dosage varies greatly but 300mg/day can see a great improvement in most people, especially when formulated with b vitamins. Caution with supplementation with this one as it can interfere with some medications including antidepressants and oral contraceptives.

Last but not least I can’t talk about nutritional supplementation without discussing melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released as part of the circadian rhythm as the body signals that it is time to sleep. Melatonin release is highest in the evening and lowest in the morning and cycles on a day-to-day basis. Melatonin disruption is particularly problematic for people who work night shifts. Melatonin supplementation is popular with travellers to combat the effects of jet lag and allow them to maintain sleep on long flights. In Australia, melatonin is not available to buy off the shelf, it is only available via prescription in pharmacies. This melatonin is a controlled release formula called Circadin. If you are interested in melatonin supplementation please contact your general practitioner.

To find out more about supplements for sleep, or to get the right formulation for you, send me a message via email or my socials and remember not every issue can be fixed with a pill.