This is how your monthly cycle could be affecting your sleep – Women’s Agenda

If youre having sleep issues, your monthly cycle could be to blame. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 33% of respondents said their sleep was disturbed during their menstrual cycle, and in another survey, 7 in 10 reported sleep changes just before their period. For those with existing sleep issues, theres also evidence that symptoms are worse at certain stages of the cycle.

Some common sleep issues that people experience include:

Lack of sleep can increase sensitivity to aches and pains, reduce the ability to regulate emotions, manage stress and communicate effectively, and affect our cognitive function and alertness. Lack of sleep can also lead to junk food cravings and being less likely to exercise. If you think these symptoms sound familiar, youre right a lot of these symptoms are part of what many individuals experience as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), even if theyre not sleep deprived! Thats why prioritising sleep, especially at certain parts of your cycle, is so important.

Lets look at how your monthly cycle can influence your sleep, and what you can do to alleviate issues.

During the menstrual cycle, which is typically about four weeks, three key hormones oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone rise and fall according to a specific pattern. The extent to which your sleep is impacted depends on how much these hormones fluctuate and how sensitive you are to these fluctuations, but also depends on your health behaviours.

Its a good idea to track your cycle even if youre not trying to fall pregnant. There are lots of apps that make this easy and enable you to keep a record of your symptoms too. Simply being aware of menstrual cycle phases and how these affect your mood and sleep can help you to take better care of yourself across your cycle. For example, if you know youve got a more challenging week coming (say in Week 3 or 4), you can plan for extra downtime, cut yourself a tiny bit of slack at work if you can, and prioritise rest and sleep. Then in the weeks where youre more alert and extroverted, you can focus on more complex tasks at work and do more socialising. If you have a partner, its a good idea to share your knowledge about your cycle with them as well so they can better support you.

Focusing on healthy sleep hygiene is also vital, by optimising your night-time routine and sleeping environment. Turn screens off half an hour before bed, avoid caffeine, alcohol and big meals too close to bedtime, and try relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation. Regular exercise is also important for improving sleep and alleviating PMS.

Sleep can get disrupted even with a normal, healthy cycle. But there are many other hormonal factors, such as having PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), being on contraceptives, or menopause that come into play as well. These can also affect sleep differently, as can the medications used to treat hormonal conditions.

Quite often, finding ways to reduce PMS will also help your sleep. Its important to remind yourself that sometimes poor sleep is just due to your menstrual cycle, and it will get better over the next few days! This can help to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety about not getting a perfect sleep every night.

If you think that your PMS or sleep issues are having an impact on your quality of life, try keeping a diary of your sleep and premenstrual symptoms, and bring this along to a GP.

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This is how your monthly cycle could be affecting your sleep - Women's Agenda

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