Menstrual cramps, bleeding, and hormonal changes can all lead to insomnia.
If you’ve ever had a period, you’ve likely experienced cramps, gas, headaches, and other PMS symptoms. According to the U.S. Bureau for Women’s Health, 90% of women will suffer from PMS (at some point in their life).
Your flow can disrupt your day, but it can feel especially frustrating when your periods are keeping you up at night.
“Period insomnia” refers to the many ways your menstrual cycle can disrupt your sleep, and this type of insomnia is a common complaint. Researchers are studying the link between menstruation and poor sleep. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research explains: “In women with premenstrual syndrome” [PMS], a poorer subjective sleep quality correlated with higher anxiety and more perceived night awakening. ”The study compared the brain activity of women during sleep. Some of these women were on their periods and some weren’t. Women on their periods reported waking up and feeling more tired than women who did not have their periods.
Research confirms countless anecdotes about periodic insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation found that 30% of women experience difficulty sleeping during their periods. And women with PMS are twice as likely to experience insomnia.
Why is your period keeping you up and what can you do to get a full night’s sleep?
Insomnia from hormonal changes
Your hormones don’t just affect your menstrual cycle. They also affect your sleep cycle.
Sara Matthews, a gynecologist, explained how hormones affect our sleep in an article published in Patient. “Our sleep pattern is regulated by our own circadian rhythm, which is affected by fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle … the drop in estrogen and progesterone that signals the onset of a period is classically associated with sleep disorders. Said Matthews.
These hormones can have a major impact on the quality of our sleep. Progesterone is an important hormone that helps you sleep through the night. But during your menstrual cycle, your progesterone levels fluctuate. When your body is making less progesterone, you may have trouble sleeping.
As your hormones grow and decrease during your period, you may experience uncomfortable symptoms that contribute to your insomnia. You can have night sweats. If your estrogen level drops before your period, you may experience headaches or migraines. The uterus produces prostaglandin during your period. You can blame this hormone for your menstrual cramps; Prostaglandin causes your uterus to contract, causing the uterus to shed its lining.
All of these hormonal changes can make you uncomfortable. And when you feel uncomfortable, it can be a lot harder for you to relax and fall asleep.
Insomnia from pain
People with chronic diseases and disabilities have long advocated more medical research and public awareness of pain omnia. Pain can interfere with your sleep. “When the body is stressed, the muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress – the body’s way of protecting itself from injury and pain. When the stress suddenly sets in, the muscles suddenly cramp and then loosen when the stress is over, “explains the American Psychological Association in an article on their website.
When you are in pain, such as menstrual cramps, your muscles may contract. Unfortunately, in order for you to actually fall asleep, your body needs to relax. Menstrual cramps can wake you up in the middle of the night, interrupt your sleep, and make it difficult to fall asleep again.
Insomnia from fear of blood leaks and stains
Most women worry about licking through their panties during their period – at least that’s what one study found. The period underwear company THINX commissioned a research study. In these surveys, people shared their attitudes towards menstruation. Of the women surveyed, 70% asked a friend or family member to check their buttocks to see if they had blood on their clothes.
Menstrual periods can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and expensive. Replacing soiled underwear, bedclothes, or pants can quickly add to the cost, in addition to the high price many women already pay to buy tampons or sanitary towels.
Many people fear that they could leak on their pajamas or bedding while they sleep. If you’re busy preventing nightly leaks, you can have trouble falling asleep.
If you have heavy blood flow you may be particularly concerned about blood stains. Up to 14% of women have heavy periods. Doctors say menstruating women should expect about 60 millimeters of blood loss during their period. But if you lose 80 millimeters or more, you have strong flow. Someone with heavy blood flow may set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night so they can go to the bathroom and replace their tampon or sanitary napkin. Some people can double their sanitary napkins to increase absorbency, which can make their underwear feel lumpy or irritating when left on the sanitary napkins at night. Since lying in the fetal position can reduce the risk of blood dripping on your sheets, you might be tempted to sleep on your side – even if you usually sleep on your back or stomach.
Whether you’re wearing extra sanitary towels, setting an alarm clock to go to the bathroom, or putting a towel on your bed, all of these precautions can make your discomfort worse and prevent you from settling down for a good night’s sleep.
Tips to bring your period insomnia to bed
If you’re struggling with period insomnia, keep these tips in mind:
- Apply a new pad (maximum absorbency) or a tampon right before going to bed.
- Wear period underwear to catch any leaks before they get on your sheets.
- Menstrual cups and discs can hold more fluid than a tampon, so they can be a great hygiene option if you bleed profusely throughout the night.
- Before going to bed, use gentle yoga stretches, a hot water bottle, or doctor-approved pain reliever to relieve pain.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, get up. Trying to sleep when you have insomnia can make you even more stressed and anxious. Take a break to stretch, make a warm cup of decaf, and then try to go back to sleep when you feel a little more relaxed.
- If you have heavy bleeding and menstrual cramps, which frequently affect your ability to sleep, contact your doctor. You may have a more serious condition like endometriosis or PCOS.
Author’s note: Laken Brooks thanks Alice Broster. Broster wrote an article on period insomnia in Forbes in August 2020. Readers should consider reading Broster’s articles on the subject.
Brooks’ article expands on the important information in Broster’s article by providing a list of tips for getting better sleep and specifically explaining how problems such as pain and anxiety can affect insomnia.