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Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle and Sleep Patterns


Sex Differences In Sleep

Understanding_Your_Menstrual_Cycle_and_Sleep_PatternsWomen are twice more likely to complain of insufficient and poor sleep than men, according to a number of questionnaire and interview studies of young to middle-aged men and women.

In addition, women report a greater need for sleep, greater daytime sleepiness, longer total sleep times, more trouble maintaining sleep, and greater consumption of sleeping tablets than men do, whereas men report that it thatís them longer to fall asleep (including y own husband, who complaints an awful lot about his poor sleep and his difficulties falling asleep). However, that woman often attributes their poor sleep to psychological factors, while men blame their sleeping difficulties on work related issue.

 Other studies have examined sex differences in the architecture of sleep. It appears, according to a small number of studies, that a few differences in sleep architecture do exist. A relatively recent study demonstrated that slow wave sleep (SWS) decreases at a later age in women than in men (Ehlers and Kupfer 1997). Studies are beginning to assess the influence of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones on womenís sleep.

This article is focused on the sleep wake pattern changes that occur in many women over the course of their menstrual cycles. For example, recent research concludes that during menstrual women tend to get less restful sleep, and that after ovulation (i.e, when progesterone levels begin to decrease) some women find it more difficult to fall asleep.


Menstrual Effect On Sleep

Observably, adolescent and adult women experience cyclical changes in reproductive hormone levels. Intensively, research suggests that permenopausal womenís endocrine system may actually buffer them against stress, active their immune systems, and improve their cardiovascular health.

Because of changing womenís hormone levels, both monthly and throughout he life span, women have often been excluded from research on sleep, circadian rhythms, and other sleep related factors. Fortunately, this has changed over the last decade.

 According to the National Sleep Foundationís Women and Sleep Poll 1998, in which over one thousand women goes thirty to sixty were interviews, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can affect sleep.Specifically, 25 to 50 percent of the women surveyed reported that menstruation symptom (boating, tender breasts, headache, and cramp, and pain) disturb their sleep for approximately two to three difficulties during menstruation, including talking longer to fall asleep, walking at night and being enable to fall back to sleep, feeling less refreshed in the morning, having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and walking earlier. Nearly 70 percent of the women surveyed felt sleepiest the week prior to or during the first few days of their period.

Still, womenís sleep experiences vary greatly during the menstrual cycle. Some women may not have any changes in their sleep, whereas others experience premenstrual hypersomnia, a rare sleep disorder then causes excessive daytime somnolence in association with menstruation.

We can now begin to draw conclusions regarding sleep changes over the course of the menstrual cycle, from information gathered in studies conducted during the 1980s and 1990s (Driver and Baker 1998). The sleep changes that you and other women may experience over the course of your menstrual cycle can link to increasing and decreasing hormone levels.

Women report that they experience longer sleep latencies (the time it takes to fall asleep), reduced sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness during the late luteal phase (after ovulation) in comparison to the mid-follicular phase of their menstrual cycles. After ovulation, progesterone levels start off high and begin to decrease toward the end of this phase.

Your difficulty falling asleep, your feeling that your sleep is less restful, and your excessive daytime sleepless or lethargy after ovulation and at the beginning of menstruation may be related to these rapidly falling levels of progesterone. In fact, progesterone can be as sedating as sleeping pills and some research suggests that more quickly and sharply your hormone levels fall at the end of your cycle, the more you may toss and turn during the night.

Dr. Helen Driver and her colleagues demonstrated that elevated body temperature in the postovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle may disrupt sleep stages and structure, specifically resulting in decreased REM sleep quantity.


How Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Sleep?

The hormone oestrogen and progesterone play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and also, through their additional functions relating to the brain, influence other processes like sleep and circadian rhythms. Changes occur in womenís body during the menstrual cycle which can affect sleep. Many women report 2-3 days of disrupted sleep during each menstrual cycle. Factors like stress, mood, illness, medication, diet, and sleep environment can also affect sleep at this time. Menstrual cycles are usually 25-23 days long but by convention, when we discuss them, we use 28 days to show the changes occur.


 What Can I Do To Improve My Sleep Especially Premenstrual?

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome or have severe mood changed (depression, anger, and irritability that affect normal functioning), you should seek medical advice. Apart from modifying lifestyle factors, there are some effective medications that can be very useful in controlling symptoms. Sometimes going on the pill (oral contraceptive) may help considerable.


Does Shift-work Affect The Menstrual Cycle?

Shift work can disrupt circadian rhythms in hormone production. The reproductive sex hormones are also affected. Studies show that women shift-worker have more irregular menstrual cycles, painful menstruation, and longer menstrual cycles than women who are non-shift workers. Stress probably plays a large part in affecting the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland that then regulate the production of sex hormone.

Sleep-smart Strategies During Menstruation

Understanding_Your_Menstrual_Cycle_and_Sleep_PatternsWomen have been sharing menstrual remedies for centuries. Now it may be time to focus on improving your sleep during various points in your menstrual cycle.

Listed below are strategies that women like your have reported as beneficial or that research studies have demonstrated as effective. I am sure that you will find that some strategies work better than others for you.

However, none of the strategies will work unless you try them in a consistent, regular fashion. If you experience PMS, you may find these suggestions particularly helpful.



Allow enough time for sleep. Obtaining an adequate amount of sleep throughout the moth, particularly during menstruation helps to cushion you during the times when you may have difficulty falling or remaining asleep. Your circadian rhythms may change during your cycle. Try to allow extra time for sleep at night if you tend to experience excessive daytime sleepiness or other changes in your sleep quality. For example, ask your spouse or partner to put the children to bed, so you can get to bed early, or ask them to get up with your toddler if she wakes up during the night. If at possible, plan to take a brief nap on the days that you feel particularly sleepy or drained (although I realize this may seem like an impossible suggestion.)


Exercise in moderation regularly. Exercise may relieve some PMS symptom and increase your amount of deep sleep. But be sure to complete your workout at least three horse before your bedtime.


Avoid caffeine. Having caffeine in the evening disturbs sleep even in those people who thinks it does not affect them. I cannot tell you the number of times that may close friends, family members, and of course, college students emphatically have said to me that they are not at all affected by caffeine, even those who have trouble sleeping. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea (both iced and hot), chocolate, sodas, and even some specialty bottled waters. Caffeine takes six to eight hours for your body metabolize and therefore you should avoid these stimulant drinks after lunchtime. Caffeinated beverages may also increase premenstrual bloating and therefore worsen you already disrupted sleep


Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol may help you to fall asleep easily in the evening, but it also result in fragmented sleep, particularly over the second half of the sleep period. Women and men drink alcohol to assist with sleep onset generally obtain less total nighttime sleep than they would if they abstained from alcohol. Also, alcohol like caffeine, can increase premenstrual bloating and disrupt sleep.


Avoid large meals and excessive fluid intake. Taken before bedtime, these may cause poor sleep, indigestion, heartburn, or frequent awakenings to urinate. Bedtime snacks should be small and consist of non-spicy foods.


Evaluate your use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Some of you will find that NSAIDs help relieve menstrual cramps just before and during your period. Obviously, if you are more comfortable, you will be likely to fall asleep and remain asleep during the night. Indeed, a number of studies have demonstrated that NSAIDs decrease PMS symptoms, particularly cramp, headaches, and dizziness. However, NSAIDs often bring on stomach upset and other gastrointestinal difficulties. 

Menstrual Planning Calculator

Have an important date on your calendar - vacation, party, first date, bisiness  travel - and want to know if your period will be coming along? Forecast with this handy calculator! But remember, this is a prediction based on your past menstrual cycles: future cycles can and do deviate.

Menstrual Calculator

Free online Ovulation Calculator

Due Date Calculator



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Department of Neurology. Helsinki, Finland