Is Lack of Sleep Disrupting Your Hormones?
The question of how much sleep one should get and its relevance to hormone balance, is a complicated one with no defined value. First, multiple sleep studies define the amount of sleep necessary varies first on age, with infants, toddlers, adolescents requiring more sleep than that of adults. On average, most adults require anywhere from 7 to 8 hrs of sleep, with a very small subset that require only 6. In addition there is the concept of sleep debt, which implies when one has not had the sleep necessary previously, one will require additional sleep to make up for the amount that was missed. The primary indicators that you are not getting enough sleep is daytime drowsiness during the day and microsleeps.
Multiple studies done shows that chronic sleep deprivation and interruption of the circadian rhythm has multiple effects on hormone balance and regulation. The effects ranges from the endocrine system, what we typically think as hormones, to the autonomic nervous system, the fight or flight response system. The whole interaction between sleep and hormones is still being worked out and it gets pretty complicated fast. For a brief overview, it effects levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the thyroid axis, growth hormone secretion, appetite control via leptin and ghrelin, and the pituitary-gonadal axis (the production of sex hormones). If you need further specifics on these, feel free to ask. I can go into further detail. The results of these disturbances affects weight, glucose metabolism, aging parameters, and sexual performance both in the desire and ability.
Sleep has other effects on the body that directly influence the sex drive. To repeat the hormonal issue before, when the pituitary-gonadal axis is interrupted, the end result is a decrease in testosterone level. Low testosterone has a direct effect on libido and normal functioning penile tissue. In addition, a reduction in Nitric Oxide has been demonstrated. Nitric Oxide is a well known modulator of endothelial function and smooth-muscle relaxation in the penis, leading to erections. Loss of wakefulness is known to affect mood and cause irritability which is often a psychogenic cause of ED.