Are you one of those lucky ladies who can predict when their period is going to hit based on the insomnia that strikes a week or so before you actually start bleeding?
You’re not alone!
It’s more common than you think. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation found that 23 percent of women report disrupted sleep in the week before their periods, and a full 30 percent report disrupted sleep during them.
Ready for some more good news?
You can naturally cure that PMS-related insomnia 😊.
Let’s have a quick menstrual cycle recap.
The menstrual cycle is actually made up of two cycles that interact and overlap: one cycle happens in the ovaries, and one cycle happens in the uterus. ⠀
The brain, ovaries, and uterus work together and communicate through hormones – chemical signals sent through the blood from one part of the body to another – to keep the cycle going.⠀
A menstrual cycle starts with the first day of bleeding and ends with the start of the next bleed. A typical cycle is approximately 24 to 35 days (average 28 days for most women). It is not abnormal for a woman’s cycle to occasionally be shorter or longer. ⠀
Cycle length changes between menarche – when your periods first start during puberty – and menopause – when your periods stop permanently.⠀
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): released from the pituitary gland in the first half of the cycle and stimulates the ovarian follicles (that contain the eggs) to mature.⠀
Luteinizing Hormone (LH): released from the pituitary gland at ovulation and triggers the rupture of the mature ovarian follicle, releasing the egg (known as ovulation).⠀
Estrogen: a female sex hormone, responsible for growing and maturing the uterine lining that is shed during menstruation, and also maturing the egg prior to ovulation. Estrogen is mainly produced by the ovaries, but also in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands and fat cells.⠀
Progesterone: another female sex hormone that works in the body to balance the effects of estrogen. It controls the build up of the uterine lining and helps mature and maintain the uterine lining and the viability of the fertilized embryo, if conception occurs. If there is no pregnancy, progesterone levels fall triggering the lining of the uterus to shed, beginning the next menstrual cycle.⠀
Testosterone: an important sex hormone for both men and women, although women have much lower levels. It’s produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands, it surges at ovulation. Testosterone helps women maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhances sex drive, and helps with overall sense of well-being.⠀
Follicular phase: signals from the brain tell the ovaries to prepare an egg that will be released at ovulation, your estrogen surges.
Ovulatory phase: an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube, your estrogen levels peak and triggers a release of luteinizing hormone (LH).
Luteal phase: if conception doesn’t occur, the follicle that released the egg becomes a corpus luteum – a temporary gland that releases massive amounts of progesterone. Your estrogen dips, your progesterone spikes, and your body stops producing the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
The first half of the cycle is known as the follicular phase. The second half is considered the luteal phase. Midway through the cycle – between days 12 and 18 – ovulation occurs, known as the ovulatory phase.⠀
Phew, ok, now that we know how the menstrual cycle works, let’s dig into why insomnia occurs shortly before your period.
The week before your period (the luteal phase) is generally when PMS hits. During the luteal phase, you have a big surge and then a rapid decline in estrogen and progesterone. When your estrogen and progesterone are balanced – like yin and yang – this rise and fall shouldn’t trigger any symptoms.
When you have too much estrogen, and not enough progesterone – AKA Estrogen Dominance – you can experience PMS symptoms, including insomnia. Estrogen dominance is triggered by a long list of common factors, including stress, lack of self-care, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins. Check out this post for more details on estrogen dominance.
This hormone imbalance is made worse if your progesterone levels are low overall – which can affect women of every age, but it occurs more often to women over age 35. That’s because overall progesterone levels start trending downward during perimenopause, and lower progesterone negatively impacts the production of melatonin – a hormone that is required to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Progesterone is also linked to both an increase in body temperature and fatigue – two classic symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is why you may feel exhausted but have trouble sleeping in the days leading up to your period. A drop in body temperature signals that it’s time to sleep. If your hormones are keeping you warmer than normal, it’s harder to naturally drift off.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but drinking caffeine doesn’t help you sleep.
Neither does alcohol.
Do you ever get that “tired-but-wired” feeling, where you are so completely exhausted, but can’t fall asleep? That’s directly related to adrenal fatigue – where prolonged exposure to stress drains the adrenals, leading to a low cortisol state.
Another common cause? Micronutrient deficiencies. Low levels of magnesium, zinc, and/or selenium can make a deep slumber harder to come by, too. Magnesium helps promote relaxation; selenium helps boost progesterone and bring your reproductive hormones back into balance; and studies show that zinc can help improve sleep quantity and quality.
Here’s where I give you a few of my favorite long-term strategies for better sleep and for saying goodbye to insomnia the week before your period, but before I do, a quick disclaimer:
These tips and tricks aren’t going to change your life (and sleep patterns) overnight. It’s always a process, and your patience will pay off.
Boost your micronutrients: Magnesium and zinc are going to work wonders for promoting sleep.
Cut out caffeine and alcohol: Yep, seriously. It’s not easy, I know. Your hormones will thank you for eliminating coffee, caffeinated teas, and alcohol. Trust me.
De-stress: The world is in a chaotic state right now, and that’s not going to just right itself. Control what you can. Ashwagandha – an adaptogenic herb – supports adrenal glands and helps modulate your stress response.
Eat to detox estrogen: As you enter the second half of your 28-day menstrual cycle, you have much more estrogen circulating in your body, and what you eat can help your body metabolize that extra estrogen more efficiently. Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and watercress – are especially important for estrogen detox during this phase. The more effectively your body handles estrogen during the second half of your cycle, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
Avoid blue light at night: The light emitted by your computer, tablet, and phone screen inhibits the body’s production of melatonin and interferes with sleep. Invest in a pair of blue light-blocking glasses or, better yet, skip screens all together at least an hour before bed.
Orgasm: Ahhhh, my favorite natural remedy for (almost) everything 😉. Alone or with a partner, orgasms are great for promoting relaxation, relieving PMS-induced cramps, and encouraging a restful sleep..
Create a bedtime ritual: Reserve at least 30 minutes to transition to bedtime. A relaxing ritual before you climb into bed will make a difference – whether it’s a warm bath, 30 minutes of screen-free reading, or a yoga nidra practice, your body (and mind!) will thank you.
The Problem: Your body temperature rises over the course of your menstrual cycle.
The Cause: Your core body temperature rises between a half and a whole degree during your period. This can be a problem because an evening drop in body temperature is one of the main biological triggers that makes you feel sleepy.
The Solution: Make sure your bedroom is cooled to optimal sleeping temperature: about 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Trick your body into drowsiness with a warm bath or shower, because moving from warm water to your cool bedroom will make your body temperature drop. And consider sleeping with fewer covers.
The Problem: Mood swings make you feel anxious or depressed.
The Cause: Period-related mood swings are very normal; hormones like estrogen and progesterone drop right before your period, making you experience negative emotions more strongly. And anxiety and depression make it tough to fall asleep at night.
The Solution: First, just being aware that some of your mood swings can be attributed to hormones can help ease the problem, by untangling your mind-body matrix. Consider tracking your period with an app or on a calendar. During your period itself, you can try deep breathing, meditation or yoga to relax and unwind before bedtime.
The Problem: Stomach issues make it tough to fall or stay asleep.
The Cause: You may have noticed digestive upsets during menstruation such as indigestion, nausea or diarrhea – all of which are related to fluctuating hormones.
The Solution: Although you may be tempted by comfort foods, avoid heavy meals and snacking before bedtime.
The Problem: Cramps, headaches and muscle pain can make it hard to get comfortable.
The Cause: Hormones, duh.
The Solution: Try changing your sleep position, adding or subtracting pillows, or using a heating pad to relieve pressure.
1. PMS-related insomnia is REAL. The National Sleep Foundation found that 23 percent of women report disrupted sleep in the week before their periods, and a full 30 percent report disrupted sleep during them.
2. Low progesterone levels play a huge role in your ability to sleep during the week leading up to your period.
3. I have a handful of natural remedies to help you combat that PMS-related insomnia!
I want to hear from you – leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!
Is insomnia a precursor to your period?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share that help you sleep during your cycle?
Looking to have a one-on-one conversation about your PMS symptoms or sleep hygiene? Find a time that works for you, and let’s get a date on the calendar!