Sleep During the Menstrual Cycle
Men and women sleep differently. Women’s sleep can be impacted by their monthly menstrual cycles. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2007 Sleep in America Poll, 30% of women reported disturbed sleep during menstruation.
Poor sleep during menstruation is due in part to hormonal fluctuations. Hormonal changes primarily involve four hormones: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. Estrogen peaks during the first half of the menstrual cycle while progesterone rises during the second half of the cycle. Towards the end of the menstrual cycle, all hormones decline.
Changes in these hormone levels affect the body and mind differently. Greater feelings of sleepiness and a slight elevation in body temperature are linked to higher levels of progesterone. Women report the highest feelings of well-being when estrogen levels peak. All of these changes can be experienced uniquely by each woman and can be exacerbated by the presence of a menstrual cycle disorder such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Healthy Sleep Tips for Women
Keep a Sleep Diary
The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping a sleep diary for a few months to determine whether your menstrual cycle and fluctuating hormones play a role in the quality of your sleep. NSF’s sleep diary is available for download at sleepfoundation.org/sleep-and-your-period, as well as other resources and content to help you understand the effects that your period and hormones may have on your sleep.
Maintain a Cool Bedroom Environment
A cool bedroom is conducive to better sleep. Room temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal. Given increases in core body temperature during menstruation, it can be even more important to maintain a cool bedroom environment during menses.
A Warm Bath or Shower Prior to Bed
We begin to feel sleepy when our body temperature drops. You can enhance this effect by taking a warm bath or shower prior to bed. The contrast between the warm bath or shower and your cool bedroom environment will help with sleep onset.
Avoid Stimulating Substances Close to Bedtime
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Depending on how your body absorbs caffeine, it can be helpful to avoid caffeine in the late-afternoon/evening.
Noise can disrupt sleep and lead to less refreshing sleep. Limit bedroom noises as much as possible. An alternative to eliminating sounds is to mask them using a “white noise” device such as a sound machine.
Exposure to bright light during the daytime helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. Nighttime light exposure, however, even to dim light can be disruptive to sleep. Limit outdoor light through the use of black out curtains and avoid the use of electronic devices in the bedroom.
Engaging in Relaxation or Other Coping Exercises
Many women report increased anxious and depressive symptoms prior to and during menstruation. Engaging in activities to alleviate these symptoms will help with sleep. Relaxation, deep breathing, or other ways of coping with stress such as keeping a “worry log” can help to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression that may disrupt sleep.
Avoid Heavy Meals
Indigestion, nausea, and diarrhea can be present during menstruation and can result in disrupted sleep. Eating a light snack and avoiding heavy meals prior to bedtime can help to avoid some of these digestion difficulties.
Maintaining Consistent Bedtimes/Waketimes and Routines
Going to bed at a similar time each night allows the body to anticipate and prepare for bedtime. As a result, you will feel sleepier at bedtime and fall asleep quicker. Similarly, engaging in a bedtime routine will help your body (and mind) to relax and transition into sleep. Avoid stimulating activities close to bedtime and engage in calming, relaxing rituals.
Choose a Comfortable Sleeping Position
Just prior to, and during menstruation, women can experience cramping, nausea, and muscle aches. Selecting a sleeping position to minimize pressure on tender areas, such as sleeping on your side and back, can help to minimize the impact of these symptoms on your sleep.
This is a guest post written by Natalie Dautovich, National Sleep Foundation environmental scholar and coordinated by P&G’s Always, the world’s leader in feminine protection. For more healthy sleep tips for women please visit http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/healthy-sleep-tips-women.
Check out this interesting infographic on sleep. Click on the image for a larger view.
*This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are that of the author, not me.