For a number of women, no matter how early a night they get or how many alarms they set for the morning, during that time of the month waking can be an increasingly difficult affair. But while it’s easy to blame a perceived lack of energy or motivation to get up and attack the morning, it turns out there are a number of factors at play, showing just how complex the female body really is. According to Dr Kat Lederle, sleep scientist and author of Sleep Sense: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health, periods can have a significant impact on our sleep-wake cycle, even causing disruption.
The reason periods impact our sleep is largely due to ovarian hormones which have receptors in the brain that are also involved in sleep regulation. As these hormones fluctuate and change during the menstrual cycle, they can effect sleep changes and our circadian rhythm. When you think about it, the body is looking to create a stable environment for a fertilised egg to develop, so it makes sense that it will do all it can to ensure adequate rest in the form of sleep is achieved. PMS can also contribute to bad sleep, with many who experience low moods, cramps, sensitivity and anxiety experiencing poor sleep.
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Speaking to Glamour, Dr Lederle explained that the worst sleep quality can be expected a few days into menstruation. “Those who often notice poor sleep quality in the late luteal phase [right before you get your next period] and your first few days of menstruation,” she said. “When levels of hormones like progesterone and oestrogen decline towards the end of the luteal phase, some women start to experience sleep problems, including for the first few days of menstruation.”
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, up to 7 in 10 women say their sleep changes before their period, with the most common time frame being 3 to 6 days before having the period. Those who suffer the most disrupted sleep tend to be PMS sufferers; some report feeling sleepier during the day, others are restless at night, and many struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep.
So, what can you do to help get your sleep back on track? Keep a diary of your symptoms for three months and list your symptoms day by day, as well as when your period starts and stops. If it’s found that your sleep problems have a link to PMS, you have a better knowledge of when to expect the disruption the following month. In the days before this time, it’s recommended to get plenty of rest and sleep, stay active and maintain a good diet, and try to get lots of outdoor light before and during your PMS.
This story was first published on WomensHealth.com.au