As we age, it's not uncommon to suddenly begin to experience unpleasant physical symptoms without knowing why. Many physical ailments can actually be signs of hormone imbalance, a condition which is often overlooked. Of course, only your doctor can determine whether your hormone levels are really out of balance, but these five common signs can help point you in the right direction.

1. If You're Not Sleeping as Well as You Used to, You Could Have High Cortisol

Sleep disturbances can take many forms. You might have trouble falling asleep, or trouble staying asleep. Perhaps you've been waking up unnaturally early, or still feeling tired in the morning despite getting lots of sleep (a sign of poor sleep quality). Whichever pathological pattern describes your sleep lately, know that disturbed sleep can be a sign of chronically high cortisol levelsOther symptoms of cortisol imbalance can include acne, anxiety, backache or other aches and pains, being more susceptible to bruises, depression, fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, irritability and skin infections.

Five Surprising Signs of Hormone ImbalanceBecause cortisol is produced by the body in response to stress, the best way to reduce your cortisol levels is to reduce stress in your life. Use healthy stress-relieving methods like exercise, hobbies, massage, or spending time in nature. Place extra priority on getting a good night's sleep until your hormone imbalance is resolved, as sleep deprivation can perpetuate high cortisol levels.

2. Low Libido: One of the Most Common Signs of Hormone Imbalance

If your sex drive has declined, the most likely hormone imbalance that this indicates is low testosterone. Although estrogen, the other sex hormone, does have some influence over sex drive, testosterone is the main source of libido for both men and women. Low testosterone can be caused by common things like stress and aging. Other symptoms of low testosterone can include depression and lack of energy. Healthy lifestyle measures, especially exercising regularly and managing your weight, can help your body regulate your testosterone levels better. Another simple solution is to take natural supplements that are proven to raise testosterone, such as zinc or fenugreek.

3. Irregular Periods Could Mean You Have Too Much Testosterone

Although you don't have to have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) to have high testosterone levels, up to 10 percent of all women have this condition, and it's one of the most plausible and common reasons why a woman might have unusually high testosterone. Missed or irregular periods is one of the most noticeable signs of this type of testosterone imbalance. Other signs you might have too much testosterone include excess body hair, weight gain, infertility and thinning hair. One of the quickest ways to get testosterone levels back in check is to use hormonal birth control pills. Maintaining a normal BMI is also crucial when it comes to treating PCOS. Other treatments might include testosterone-blocking medications like spironolactone, or natural remedies like spearmint tea.

4. Hot Flashes Can Be a Sign of Low Estrogen Levels

The symptoms of low estrogen are usually experienced by women in their 50's and older. However, younger women might experience low estrogen as well, especially if they are going through premature menopause. Arguably, the most noticeable symptom of low estrogen is hot flashes (also called night sweats when they occur at night). If you experience this symptom, you'll probably notice it right away, as hot flashes are not a part of everyday life until you reach menopause. You might also have low estrogen if you experience other symptoms like fatigue, poor memory, low libido, insomnia, irregular menstruation, headache, mood swings, irritability and pain during sex. Low estrogen is usually treated with prescription estrogen replacement therapies, so talk to your doctor if your symptoms of estrogen deficiency are bothering you.

5. Weight Gain and Excess Estrogen Create a Vicious Cycle

Having high estrogen levels can cause you to gain fat. However, because fat cells actually produce estrogen, carrying extra weight could perpetuate elevated estrogen levels, or even make matters worse. Other possible symptoms of excess estrogen include bloating, breast tenderness, headache, mood swings, cold hands or feet and increased symptoms of PMS. Men with excess estrogen often experience gynecomastia, which is a condition in which men grow breasts. Having too much estrogen could increase your risk of estrogen-sensitive conditions like breast cancer, uterine cancer, and uterine fibroids. If you think you have signs of hormone imbalance that make you think you might have abnormally high estrogen levels, it's important to talk to your doctor.