During These 3 Parts Of Your Menstrual Cycle, It’s Harder For You To Sleep
If you often lie awake long into the night, or wake up feeling tired, it may be worth considering how your period could be impacting your sleep. The various phases of your menstrual cycle can be annoying all on their own, for various and obvious reasons. But for many women, this monthly cycle can also disrupt sleep.
Of course other things, like how much caffeine you drink throughout the day, how you're feeling mentally and physically, and even how you get ready for bed, can all factor into how well you'll sleep. You can't, for instance, drink a giant pot of coffee right before bed, or stare at your phone till all hours of the night, and expect to sleep well.
In order to stack the cards in your favor, you should try to keep a healthy sleep routine, otherwise known as "good sleep hygiene." This includes winding down at the same time each night, putting your phone away, and making sure your bedroom is cool and dark — all of which can make it easier to sleep.
Do keep in mind, however, that the hormonal goings on of your cycle, all of which are stirring beneath the surface, might make it difficult to sleep. If this becomes a problem for you, talking to your OB/GYN about it may offer solutions. Here are the three phases that can impact your rest, according to experts.
1. The Luteal Phase
Your menstrual cycle — and all the changes going on throughout it — may be to blame for poor sleep quality, but especially so in the days leading up to your period.
During the average 28 days cycle, "up to seven out of ten women notice a change in their sleeping patterns [at this time]," Christine Greves, MD, OB/GYN, of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, tells Bustle. And there are a few reasons why.
"Falling asleep during the luteal phase may be easier because [the hormone] progesterone may help relax you and make you feel more tired," Dr. Greves says. "But the quality of the sleep may be less because REM sleep is less during that time."
If you don't enter into this deeper stage of sleep, you'll probably wake up feeling tired, and it's all thanks to your hormones. "During the luteal phase (progesterone-dominant phase) your body temperature is a little higher, resulting in less REM sleep," Dr. Greves says. "REM sleep occurs best when your body is at cooler temperatures."
It may also have to do with other hormonal shifts. As Dr. Greves says, "During the last six days of your cycle, estrogen levels [decrease] significantly which decreases [the sleep regulating hormone] serotonin in the brain, which can make you more susceptible to sounds, smells, and comfortable temperatures, etc." That means even the slightest noise outside, or the smallest movement from your partner, can cause you to wake up — resulting in a poor night of sleep.
You might also notice that you struggle to sleep during ovulation, which occurs right in the middle of your cycle, about 14 days after your period ends.
"In the days before ovulation, estrogen and progesterone begin to rise as it prepares to release the egg," Dr. Shaughanassee Williams, DNP, CNM, founder of HealthyHER Center for Women's Care, tells Bustle. "Some women may report drowsiness during this time."
So if you feel tired during this stage, or have trouble sleeping, this may explain why. "Some women may also voice that they have increased sleep just after their ovulation," Dr. Williams says. "This is most likely due to the peak in progesterone that helps relax and may promote sleep."
To get through this stage of your menstrual cycle, without falling asleep at your desk, be sure to take great care of yourself — especially right before bed. "Allow more time for your body to wind down," Dr. Williams says. "Aromatherapy may help promote relaxation and possible sleep." So consider hitting up the health food store, and getting a few oils like lavender to promote good sleep.
It may also help to exercise. As Dr. Willliams says, "Exercise for 30 minutes, one to two hours before bed. This raises endorphins and then allows the body time to relax, lower core body temperature, and rest before bed."
3. Your Period Itself
All of that said, there are plenty of other ways your menstrual cycle can prevent you from getting good sleep, including the ol' period itself.
"Generally speaking, a normal menstrual cycle consists of 28 days and the first [three to five] days is the actual menstrual flow," Dr. Shahin Ghadir, MD, FACOG, tells Bustle. "Many women who experience strong menstrual cramps during their menstrual flow, may also experience sleep disturbances due to discomfort, cramping, and pain."
Before climbing into bed, it can help to plan ahead for the possibility of cramps waking you up in the middle of the night. "Taking over-the-counter pain medication [...] can relieve menstrual cramps and allow for [...] a better night’s sleep," Dr. Ghadir says. "Non-medicated options such as meditation, nighttime teas, and overall relaxation may also be helpful tools if sleep disturbances are an issue." But if your'e finding that your cramps are severe, and disturbing your life overall, don't hesitate to see your doctor.
No matter the phase you're in, the best way to combat poor sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene — as well as a few sleep tricks. "If you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night, go to another room and read something until you are tired enough to go back into the bedroom," Dr. Greves says. "Make sure your diet does not have a lot of sugar and salt in it. [And] you could also consider taking melatonin after discussing these concerns with your doctor."
Of course, if you still aren't getting good sleep, letting your doctor know will be key. There are so many factors at play when it comes to sleep problems, so you may have to weed through other health concerns first, before figuring out exactly what's keeping you up at night.