While the levels of testosterone (T) and estrogen (E) in our bodies fluctuate naturally with age, there are several things we can do to optimize the production of these important sex hormones.
Let’s start with the connection between sex hormones and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. The most common symptoms are loud snoring, excessive fatigue, and abrupt awakenings accompanied by choking and/or gasping.
While the directionality of the effect is unknown, there is a clear relationship between apnea and sex hormones. When apnea is reduced or eliminated, the body is better able to regulate T and E.
Because sleep apnea is generally caused by obesity, you can significantly decrease your risk of developing sleep apnea by maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise, especially heavy lifting, is also known to boost T production in men and women.
The Takeaway: To optimize T and E, breathe through your nose whenever possible. Breathing through the nose (rather than the mouth) helps facilitate the gas exchange of carbon dioxide and improves neurotransmitter efficiency. Plus, nobody likes a mouth-breather.
Next is the connection between sex hormones and sunlight.
Did you know that your body produces dopamine when your eyes are exposed to sunlight? Dopamine AKA the feel-good hormone indirectly increases the production of T and E by increasing melanocytes (cells that produce melanin). Conversely, light exposure to the eyes during nighttime hours can hinder the release of dopamine into the brain and interrupt the flow of sex hormones.
The Takeaway: To optimize T and E, ensure a sufficient amount of sunlight exposure to the eyes during the day and minimize light exposure at night. In other words, decrease the amount of time you spend staring at your cellphone or computer.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the relationship between sex hormones and temperature.
Research suggests cold temperatures can have a positive impact on T and E regulation by controlling blood flow.
Cooling your sex organs with a cold shower, swim, or ice bath shuts down the neurons controlling the entry of blood and hormones to these regions of the body. When the sex organs are reheated to normal temperatures, the production of T and E increases.
Regular exposure to cold temperatures is also associated with weight loss and increased willpower. Conversely, exposure to excessive heat and/or constant heat can have a negative effect on sperm production and sperm health.
The Takeaway: To optimize T and E, incorporate cold showers into your daily routine. Even just a few minutes can help boost the production of sex hormones.
The above recommendations are based on research conducted by Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., a Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.