Which hormones make you feel tired?

5 hormones that might make you feel tired

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

19 November 2019

Which hormones make you feel tired?

Various glands within the body produce hormones that are essential for growth, development and reproduction. Each hormone has a different function and effect on the body. Some of these hormones can make you feel tired, including:

  • Melatonin
  • Serotonin
  • Oestrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone.

I’ll also explain how the thyroid gland can play a role in tiredness. But first, let’s take a look at these hormones in a little more detail.

1. Melatonin

Melatonin and serotonin go hand in hand. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which can be converted into melatonin, a natural hormone, in the pineal gland. Both of these hormones play a key role in sleep.

Melatonin is produced at night and it plays a key role in adjusting your body clock. Darkness increases melatonin production which indicates that it is time to go to sleep, whereas light decreases melatonin production and tells the body to stay awake.

This explains why we may feel more tired during the winter months, since there is limited natural daylight available. Spending time in the dark means the body might produce more melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy during the day. During these months, try to make sure that your work and home environments are as light as possible, and try to get out in the natural daylight during your lunch break.

Low levels of melatonin may also cause poor sleep. The blue light from screens (mobiles, tablets, computers and televisions) decreases melatonin production. Try to reduce your screen time before going to bed to ensure that you produce enough melatonin to help you fall asleep.

2. Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls the sleep and waking cycle, and helps to keep us happy and energised. Serotonin levels can be maintained through diet by including foods containing tryptophan, such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Chickpeas
  • Red meat
  • Bananas.

Like melatonin, abnormal serotonin levels may also cause sleeping problems.

What happens when serotonin levels are too low?

Serotonin is produced during REM sleep and it should be produced daily. It is often referred to as our feel-good hormone, and research has found that there is a direct link between low serotonin levels, poor sleep and depression.1

If we don’t get proper sleep, our body might not produce enough serotonin, which can leave us feeling tired and low in mood the next day.

What happens when serotonin levels are too high?

On the other hand, serotonin syndrome can occur when serotonin levels are too high. This usually occurs due to a change in medication or if you have taken an anti-depressant along with another medication that contains serotonin.

This causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating and sleep problems. If your heart is beating rapidly and you’re sweating excessively, you may struggle to fall asleep, thus leading to tiredness the next day. If you are unsure about any medications you may be taking, talk to your doctor.

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3. Oestrogen

Oestrogen is the main sex hormone for women and it plays a huge role in the female body as it promotes the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive organs. As well as this, oestrogen allows the body to effectively use serotonin.

As previously mentioned, low serotonin levels have been linked to poor sleep. Therefore, poor use of serotonin due to low levels of oestrogen may cause poor or disrupted sleep, thus making you more tired the next day.

Menopausal women can suffer from low energy as a result of falling oestrogen levels. You might want to consider using Menopause Support to gently balance hormones. This also contains magnesium which can help to fight tiredness.

4. Progesterone

Similar to oestrogen, progesterone is also an important sex hormone. Progesterone is a crucial hormone in pregnancy as it prepares the body for labour. As well as this, progesterone is also a muscle relaxant and can aid the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which can promote sleep.

Why progesterone can cause tiredness

Progesterone levels tend to be highest towards the end of your menstrual cycle, leading to increased GABA production. This may help you to get a better sleep which can help boost your energy levels.

However, at the beginning of your cycle, your progesterone levels decrease and produce less GABA which may make you feel more tired and less energetic. Similarly, progesterone levels decrease during menopause and may cause tiredness and lack of energy during this stage of the lifecycle.

5. Testosterone

Testosterone is a sex hormone produced by both males and females; however, men produce more of this hormone than women. Testosterone plays a key role in the reproductive system for both sexes and it also helps to improve muscle and bone mass in males. From the age of 30, testosterone levels in males gradually decrease as a result of ageing.

Your testosterone levels also change naturally whilst you are sleeping. They increase during sleep, particularly in rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and decrease during waking hours. Having a poor sleeping pattern may reduce the amount of REM sleep that you are getting, ultimately leading to lower testosterone levels.

Fatigue and low energy are common symptoms of low testosterone levels. Research has linked low levels of testosterone to tiredness and sleep disturbance.2 If you think you are suffering from low testosterone levels, a trip to your doctor is a good idea.

The thyroid gland and tiredness

The thyroid gland plays an important role in hormone production, and if things are off-balance then this can have an impact on your sleep and energy levels too.

The thyroid gland absorbs iodine and amino acids from the bloodstream and uses them to produce two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both of these hormones ensure that all of the cells in your body work effectively – they play a key role in the development of the brain and can have an impact on your mood.

Progesterone has a complimentary relationship with the thyroid as it helps to ensure the effective production of thyroid, as well as helping to increase thyroid hormone levels in the blood. If your progesterone levels are off-kilter then this could be another reason why you’re feeling tired.


If the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 to fulfil the needs of the body, the cells will work slower. This is often referred to as an underactive thyroid (or hypothyroidism). Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Tiredness – You may have less energy due to the lack of T4. Research has shown that lack of T4 production is directly linked to fatigue.3 Also, you may suffer from sleep apnoea, a common sleep disorder.
  • Muscle aches and weakness – You may experience weakness in your thighs and shoulders. This is because a lack of T4 production may can affect the muscle function.
  • Feeling cold – slower metabolism may lead to a decrease in body temperature.

If you suspect that you have an underactive thyroid, speak to your doctor, they can determine whether you have this condition and offer appropriate advice and treatment.

The thyroid gland and stress

There is a definite link between stress and thyroid function. Tyrosine is an amino acid that assists in the production of T3 and T4 as well as adrenaline and noradrenaline. When the body is under stress, it requires more of these hormones, resulting in limited tyrosine storage, which directly effects the function of the thyroid hormone and can affect your sleep.

We also know that there is a direct link between stress and sleep. When the body is under stress, the autonomic nervous system releases both adrenaline and noradrenaline. This can cause you to toss and turn at night before eventually falling asleep.

Also, overworking is associated with stress and not sleeping. If you work long hours, you may find it difficult to wind down after a long day, which can affect your sleep and leave you feeling groggy and tired when you wake up!

Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle of poor sleep and stress.

So, the thyroid gland plays a huge role in hormone production and issues with the thyroid can cause health issues, including tiredness and poor sleep. If you suspect that you are suffering from thyroid imbalance, go to see your doctor.

You may want to consider using Kelp tablets. These contain iodine which supports the body’s metabolism by promoting the normal production of thyroid hormones in your body.

Hormone changes during the lifecycle

Your hormone levels and ratios change naturally at several times during the lifecycle. As previously mentioned, these changes can lead to health problems if the hormones become imbalanced. I’ve included a handy table below to help you recognise hormone changes you might be experiencing at the moment, which could be causing you to feel tired.


Lifecycle stage Hormone status
  • During puberty, the body starts to produce oestrogen and progesterone.
The menstrual cycle
  • In the middle of the cycle, oestrogen levels are highest and they are lowest during your period.
  • During week 3 of your cycle, progesterone levels are highest and they decrease during week 4 of the cycle.
  • Oestrogen levels gradually increase during pregnancy and they usually reach their peak in the third trimester.
  • Progesterone levels are significantly higher during pregnancy as progesterone helps to maintain the size of the uterus.
  • During menopause, oestrogen levels fluctuate and can eventually decrease significantly.
  • Similar to oestrogen, during menopause your progesterone levels decrease.

So what can you take away from this blog?

Your hormone ratio can change naturally at several times throughout the lifecycle. However, this can become a problem if your hormones become imbalanced.

Tiredness is a common symptom that can occur as a result of hormone imbalance. If you suspect that your hormones are imbalanced, speak to your doctor.


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17984558/


3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5974249/


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