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Does your menstrual cycle affect your sleep?

menstrual cycle effects sleep

7 in 10 women suffer from disturbed sleep for this reason, are you one of them?

We’ve all experienced a restless night from time to time and with so many influential factors on our sleep quality, it can be hard to determine the cause. For women, disturbed sleep can happen more regularly, as it has been proven that our menstrual cycle has an impact on our sleep.

A new study conducted by NEXT has revealed that over two-thirds (69%) of women struggle with their sleep whilst on their period. Three in five (57%) disclosed that they struggle the most during the menstruation phase of their cycle, whilst a quarter (25%) find it hardest in the luteal phase. 

NEXT has teamed up with experts in the women’s health industry to reveal the reasons behind sleep disruption during the menstrual cycle and to give women advice on how to get the best night’s sleep in the different phases of their cycle.

GP and women’s health expert, Dr Bhavini Shah from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor revealed that disturbed sleep is common in women but that rest is vital not only during our menstrual cycle but for our health in general, highlighting the importance of a comfortable sleeping environment.

“Up to 7 in 10 women say their sleep changes just before their period, according to the Sleep Health Foundation. Disturbed sleep is, in fact, a common symptom of PMS in women. Bad sleep can increase your risk of both mental and physical health conditions from stress to coronary heart disease, so it’s important you discuss your symptoms with your GP if you find your menstrual cycle is having a serious impact”.

Claire Innes a hormone and fertility coach explains that the main reason sleep is impacted by the menstrual cycle is because of the changes in hormone levels that women experience at different times during the cycle.,

“Estrogen and progesterone levels change depending on which phase of the menstrual cycle you are in and this impacts how well you sleep”.

How does your cycle impact your sleep?

GP Dr. Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead at Treated says:

“In the weeks before menstruation you might feel more anxious or prone to mood swings, which can seep in at night time and disrupt sleep. Physiologically, declining progesterone levels can cause bloating and breast tenderness, which can be uncomfortable.

During menstruation, you’re more likely to experience cramps, discomfort and pain, which is going to make it harder to get to and stay asleep. You may also experience some anxiety (be it conscious or unconscious) about leaks. Lastly, iron deficiency, which is quite common in women with heavy periods, can contribute to fatigue and sleep disturbances.”

Claire explains the impact temperature has on your ability to get quality sleep, “Changes in core body temperature before ovulation can cause sleep disturbances, especially in the summer months. Very slight fluctuations, particularly in the luteal phase where our bodies are typically a little warmer, can also affect sleep.

“Some women make less melatonin at the beginning of their cycle, and this can make deep sleep (REM sleep) even more scarce.”

How to get better sleep during the different phases of the menstrual cycle

Follicular phase

According to Dr Daniel:“This phase is least likely to cause any sleep disruptions so you should focus on building and maintaining positive sleep and health habits. Preserve energy by aiming for at least eight hours of sleep per night, get plenty of natural light in the morning to regulate your circadian rhythm, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and try to minimise or alleviate stress where possible. 

Ovulation and Luteal phase

Dr Daniel explains, “In the ovulation and luteal phases you might notice some potentially disruptive symptoms creeping in. During this time I’d recommend drinking plenty of water to combat fluid retention and bloating, and using heating pads or doing gentle stretches if you’re getting cramps. You might also consider taking painkillers if needed. 

Claire recommends, “During the luteal phase you may want to open a window or use lighter bedding. Opting for cotton or natural fibres in your sleepwear is also a good idea. Take extra care and time to wind down and stay cool at night during the luteal phase and beginning of menstruation.” 

Menstruation 

Dr Daniel explains that during menstruation, “You might find it useful to try different sleeping positions to alleviate pain and discomfort, because sleeping on your front may put additional pressure on your stomach, worsening symptoms. Sleeping in the foetal position can encourage your abdominal muscles to relax, which can help reduce the level of pain that your cramps are causing. Sleeping on your back or your side can relieve pressure on your abdomen too.” 

Claire adds, “During the first few days of your cycle – be kind to yourself and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Pull out the comfy granny pants, spray some lavender on your pillow and give yourself plenty of time to wind down. You may want to go to bed a little earlier on these days.”

The expert’s tips for better sleep throughout your cycle

Sleep is vital when it comes to the menstrual cycle, so it is important to prioritise getting a quality night’s shut-eye. Our experts suggest that to get the best night’s sleep when experiencing disruption during your cycle you should consider the following: 

  1. Sip some lavender tea. 
  2. Avoid screens an hour before you want to be sleeping.
  3. Wear comfortable, loose sleepwear
  4. Minimise caffeine after mid-day 
  5. Make sure you drink lots of water during the day to stay hydrated, aim to have 80% of your daily intake before 8pm so that you don’t need to wake up in the night. 
  6. Consider supplementing with magnesium to aid in more restful sleep.
  7. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule (even on weekends). 
  8. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This might include taking a warm bath, reading a book or meditating. 
  9. Exercise regularly (But not too close to bedtime).
  10. Create a comfortable sleep environment – make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool, open a window and use lighter bedding or cooling sheets.

For more tips on how to improve your sleep set up and self care routine, visit the NEXT website. 

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