How a Woman's Menstrual Cycle Affects Sleep
Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle affect body temperature and melatonin production. These changes disrupt the sleep patterns and can cause women to sleep either less or more than usual. Studies discovered that women with Premenstrual Syndrome have different sleep patterns and progress abnormally through the sleep cycle.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Before their period, women frequently experience physical and/or emotional discomfort. Some may feel these effects at a mild level, while others may experience them very severely, leading to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
PMS is a condition characterized by extensive and uncomfortable symptoms that occur before your period and can continue with menstruation. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a more severe condition in which at least five symptoms, including significant changes to mood or emotional health, are experienced.
These symptoms range from cramping and breast sensitivity to mood swings and anxiety. Most people who menstruate report experiencing symptoms up to two weeks before their period begins, making day-to-day life difficult and uncomfortable.
Trouble sleeping is very common, with 35% of adults reporting lack of sleep and fatigue. Women contribute more to this statistic than men as a likely cause of poor sleep is hormonal changes associated with menstrual cycles.
The US National Sleep Foundation research discovered that 30% of women experience sleep problems during their periods, 23% struggle to get a full eight hours of sleep, and people with PMS are twice as likely to experience insomnia.
It is important to understand the menstrual cycle and sleep better before and during your period.
How does Menstruation Affect Sleep?
PMS affects women's sleep patterns. Physical and emotional changes due to hormonal changes may be the culprit for women experiencing trouble sleeping during PMS, which can cause daytime drowsiness.
Additionally, hormonal changes before and during menstruation affect body temperature and melatonin production, disrupting sleep. Melatonin is crucial to sleep as it is a hormone essential to regulating circadian rhythm and facilitating sleep.
Mood changes like anxiety and depression associated with PMS may cause trouble sleeping. Both of these mental health problems are factors that cause insomnia. These problems are even more severe among those who suffer from PMDD, with around 70% of women reporting insomnia symptoms before their period.
Furthermore, it has been found in some studies that women with PMS have different sleep patterns and progress abnormally through the sleep cycle, such as experiencing reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during the later phases of menstruation.
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Sleep Patterns
The menstrual cycle contains two main phases: follicular (the first day of menstruation to ovulation) and luteal (after ovulation).
According to Kathryn Lee, RN, Ph.D., and associate dean of research at the University of California, estrogen starts to build up from the follicular phase to ovulation which acts as an energy supply. As a result, around day 14 at ovulation, estrogen production suddenly gets a considerable boost causing several sleep problems.
After ovulation, a hormone called progesterone which makes you exhausted and tired, increases. And right before the start of your next period, estrogen and progesterone levels decreases, which is when many women experience trouble sleeping.
As such, Lee says it is potentially the abrupt withdrawal of progesterone from such high levels that causes insomnia-like symptoms in many women.
How to Sleep better before, during, and after your period?
Now that we've established how menstruation can affect sleep, here are some steps you can take to get better sleep during the menstrual cycle phases.
Before Your Period
The same steps that you can take to help manage the symptoms of PMS, in general, are the same steps you can take to get better sleep at night. These steps include regularly exercising, following a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation.
For more severe symptoms of PMS and PMDD, some meditations and supplements may be prescribed to mitigate the symptoms and improve sleep. However, it is essential to talk to a doctor who can help you make an informed decision for your situation based on the benefits and risks of different treatments.
During and After Your Period
The practices to reduce the symptoms of PMS previously mentioned should be practiced if the symptoms continue. But most symptoms should decrease and go away within a day or two after your period starts.
Bleeding at night is a big concern for women with heavy periods. Absorbent pads designed for nighttime use or a mattress pad or protector may be helpful and offer peace of mind for those concerned about staining their mattress.
General Sleep TipsChanging your habits, routines, and environment is vital to improving sleep. Some examples of things you can do to ensure you're getting adequate sleep include:
Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
- Regularly clean and wash your bedsheets.
- Develop a relaxing routine before bedtime.
- Reduce noise and light in your bedroom before sleeping.
- Avoid excess caffeine.
- Get adequate exposure to sunlight during the day.
While these tips aren't PMS-related, it is beneficial to practice these habits to ensure you're in the best possible state to fall asleep.
Check out our blog - What and When should You eat to get Better Sleep?
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Written by: Sean Shih