How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Sleep

How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Sleep Cycle

By: Haley Guerin 

        Ahh. It’s finally the greatest time of the day: bed time. You jump into those fabulous llama print PJs and snuggle under your favorite blanket. The lights are out and there is a calming silence filling your room. Your eyes feel heavy and you start to drift off into the best sleep of your life–– until a wrenching feeling surfaces in your pelvic area. That great night of sleep? We don’t know her anymore. Yep, your period is about to come. Does this situation resonate with you? Yeah, us too. Let’s do things the Viv way and jump into what’s going on with your body.

        Well, the good news is, as frustrating as this phenomenon is, you are not alone! Up to 7 out of 10 womxn say that their sleep takes a turn for the worse a few days before their period is going to start. This is believed to be due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) when our bodies are alerting us of the arrival of our red friend. PMS actually plays a pretty big role the way that our menstrual cycle influences our sleep cycle. REM sleep (which is when most of our dreams occur) gets cut shorter when we are expecting our period and are undergoing that dreaded PMS. Additionally, during this part of the menstrual cycle, levels of a hormone called progesterone decrease. This actually causes our body to control our temperature differently than it normally would which can lead to disturbances in our sleep (too hot, too cold sound familiar anyone?). This poor sleep quality caused by PMS can have all too familiar effects on our daily life such as mood swings, heightened irritability, difficulty focusing, and a general feeling of drowsiness. 

       So how does our menstrual cycle affect our sleep cycle beyond PMS? As menstruation begins, the first few days may bring about a poorer sleep quality due to decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. However, not all hope is lost for that dreamy night of sleep because right after your period, your body experiences a heightened reception to melatonin––that beautiful hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle. This means that during this particular part of your menstrual cycle, your body is all set to go for those blissful nights of sleep. But, as we all know, good things come and go. Estrogen levels will begin to rise again as your body steps into the ovulation phase. Heightened levels of estrogen lead to more energy and good vibes due to the subsequent release of our feel-good-friend, serotonin. While this is great for giving our mood a little power up, it can actually interfere with our sleep cycle because it causes a heightened sex drive in addition to a boost of energy. I mean, who can have a restful night of sleep when all they can think about is Zac Efron or Gigi Hadid? 

        Ovulation affects our sleep cycle in more than just this one way. As our body prepares to release the egg from our ovary, body temperature decreases. This can be ideal for helping us settle into a good night of sleep because when temperatures are slightly cooler, it prepares the body for sleep. Yet, once our body releases the egg, progesterone levels increase, causing a subsequent increase in body temperature. As you can imagine, this makes it harder to sleep and can lead to some sleepless nights for a few days during this part of the menstrual cycle. 

        During the second half of the menstrual cycle, called the luteal phase, sleep quality tends to worsen leading up to menstruation due to digestive issues associated with our periods (like bloating and gas), headaches, breast tenderness, and cramping. This is assuming the egg is not fertilized. If, however, the egg is fertilized, pregnancy will affect the sleep cycle in a variety of ways. 

     Some tips to help you conquer those restless nights include: wearing light/breathable clothing if you tend to get hot, or grab another blanket to throw on top of you if you tend to get cold. It is also helpful to keep a journal of any patterns you may notice in your sleep around your menstrual cycle, so you can figure out how your body specifically responds. Keep in mind that all bodies are made beautifully unique, so your menstrual cycle may affect your sleep cycle in different ways than it does for other menstruators. Sleep is so vital to our wellbeing, so never be afraid to take forty winks if you need to––your body will show you some love for it! 


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