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How the menstrual cycle impacts your sleep

By Bonnie Azoulay, Contributing writer

Have you ever felt more tired a few days before or during your period? Well, that’s no coincidence. According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 30% of women reported disturbed sleep during their period, while 23% reported disturbed sleep the week before their period. Read on for more information about the menstrual cycle and sleep.

The menstrual cycle and sleep

In general, women experience more insomnia than men because of hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle. The two major female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, shift up and down during the menstrual cycle, which can impact your sleep patterns. According to Yale Medicine’s Jennifer Chen, progesterone has a mildly sedative effect while estrogen has been shown to stimulate the brain and cause insomnia. 

Due to lack of sleep, you may find yourself feeling drowsy during the day and tired during your period. Still, experts don’t know why some women experience more severe PMS symptoms — like insomnia — than others. One reason, The Sleep Foundation suggests, is because some women may react to hormonal changes differently. Plus, if women also have a serotonin, magnesium, or calcium deficiency, then their sleep disturbance can become worse. 

For more information about your relationship with sleep during the menstrual cycle, read below.

The menstrual cycle and sleep

There are four different phases during the menstruation cycle that might affect your sleep in various ways. 

Menstrual Phase

Right before you bleed and when your period starts, your estrogen and progesterone levels will drop. The decrease of these hormones can make it harder for you to fall asleep. As your period starts, progesterone levels will increase. 

Follicular Phase

This phase occurs between the first day of your period and ovulation. Your estrogen levels will rise during the follicular phase, which helps to set off ovulation. 

Ovulation Phase

A surge in luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels will occur. The egg will pass through the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. Unless it meets a sperm during this time, the egg will typically last 24 hours. Estrogen levels decrease while progesterone levels increase. At this point, your sleep pattern will likely get back on track.

Luteal Phase

The follicle will produce hormones and release an egg to prepare you for a possible pregnancy. At this time, progesterone levels will peak and can regulate your sleep patterns.

Body temperature’s effect on sleep

Hormonal shifts will change your body temperature and can disturb your sleep, too. According to the University of Michigan Health, your body temperature dips right before your ovary releases an egg. About 24 hours after the egg’s release, progesterone increases and your temperature rises for several days. Think of it like this: When your body is too hot or too cold, you have trouble falling asleep. This can result in more tossing and turning throughout the night. 

Catching more Zzzs during your cycle

Looking to get more sleep? Here are a few ideas! 

  • Try avoiding or cutting back on caffeine and any other stimulants. 
  • Add some movement or exercise into your day. Exercise has been found to help people sleep, by ensuring you’re tired enough by bedtime and increasing your amount of deep sleep. 
  • Keep your bedroom cool to stabilize your body temperature when it’s time to get some shut-eye. 

Those with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD), which is a severe form of PMS, are known to have more difficulty regulating their sleep because of their reduced response to melatonin (a sleepytime hormone). Treatment for PDD includes lifestyle changes (like exercise and nutrition), and medications like SSRIs, TCAs, or oral contraceptives.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


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