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progesterone in men & women can affect sleep, immunity, addiction & more

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Typically, you hear about progesterone in the context of women at one of two life stages. First, if a woman wants to conceive or is pregnant, healthy progesterone levels are crucial to an easy conception and a healthy pregnancy. Second, when a woman starts to enter perimenopause and menopause, she feels the sometimes unpleasant effects of dropping progesterone levels. 

Progesterone does so much more than maintain a woman’s reproduction during her childbearing years. It’s an important hormone for sleep, a regulated immune system, male hormone health, and so much more. Keep reading to learn about some of the more surprising functions of progesterone.  

Progesterone isn’t just for the ladies

Progesterone is thought to be a female sex hormone, but men make progesterone too. In fact, progesterone is an important part of normal male functioning. Progesterone is involved in sperm capacitation, which makes sperm cells able to penetrate an egg. It also influences testosterone production in men.

For men and women, progesterone improves sleep, can be part of a treatment for sleep apnea, strengthens the immune system, and plays a role in healthy kidney, respiratory, and cardiovascular function, plus so much more.  

Progesterone and brain injury


There’s a growing body of research that shows that progesterone may help with recovery after brain injury, whether you’re a man or a woman. More research is needed to be sure, but here’s what scientists have found so far: 

  • In a rat study, increasing progesterone increased the type of brain cell that insulates your brain cells, which makes them work more efficiently. The effect was observed in the nerve cells of the central nervous system -- the brain and spinal cord -- and in the peripheral nervous system -- everywhere else.  
  • Researchers also found that progesterone may help with brain recovery after a head injury. Treating head-injured rats with progesterone helped with cognitive recovery and improved their long-term outcome.
  • Progesterone was also shown to reduce swelling after brain injury, which is always an immediate concern when you’re dealing with head trauma. Once progesterone breaks down, its metabolites act as antioxidants, which protects the brain’s membrane from breaking down after injury. 

If you’re dealing with a head injury, traumatic brain injury, or concussion, it’s worth mentioning these results to your doctor and seeing whether it makes sense to work progesterone into your treatment plan.

Progesterone may reduce your urge to smoke

Progesterone reduced the urge to smoke in both female and male smokers. Even though progesterone treatment reduced cravings, it did not change smoking behavior in one study. In another study, timing progesterone during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle reduced cravings and also reduced smoking behavior.. Progesterone is being explored as a possible complement to smoking cessation programs as scientists learn how to leverage this into behavior change. 

Progesterone may make your brain work more efficiently


A lot of women report feeling like they don’t focus as well and think as clearly once they cross into perimenopause and menopause stages. It’s not in their heads. Progesterone levels have a strong correlation with how efficiently your brain works.  

Researchers have been studying how to use supplemental progesterone to boost women’s cognitive function once progesterone levels drop. Menopausal women given progesterone improved their verbal processing and visual memory. In another study, progesterone improved oxygen efficiency and energy production in rat brain cells.

No matter your age, it’s a good idea to get a full hormone panel done to see where you are. If levels are low now, you can look into ways to boost your hormone levels naturally or introduce safe and natural hormone replacements. If you have healthy hormone levels, you can use these numbers to compare as you get older and test your hormone levels again.