We’ve all been there.
It’s 3 am. You can’t sleep and, you have your period.
You know it’s 3 am because the light from your smart phone flashes a reminder that it’s past your bedtime. You get up for some water, and you can do this without tripping because of the “blue” light that streams from your PVR, smoke detector, coffee machine, etc. While these extra light sources are convenient, did you know they can actually be disruptive to your sleeping patterns and your hormones?
How Your Sleep Cycle Affects Your Menstrual Cycle
Before the introduction of artificial light, people were in entire darkness in the evening hours. Because of this, for centuries, women would chart their cycles in correlation to the moon’s cycle, a natural light source. This made sense because the moon has a 29.5 day cycle, different phases and because light has an influence on hormones, women found great success with this method.
That is until artificial light was invented.
Today our cycles are introduced to varying types of light sources that can influence our hormones. When your body is exposed to light, your retino-hypothalamic tract picks up the light sources and then relays this to your pineal gland. This is in turn produces the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a prominent hormone that is produced in the brain that sends signals to your body that it is time to sleep.
During the day normal levels of melatonin often stay low and as the sun sets, these levels escalate, hitting high levels in the evening. Low levels help you stay alert, but if these levels are low at night, you may have difficulty sleeping.
For this reason, presence of light during the night (or your sleeping hours) can influence the stable levels of your hormones and can even lead to changes in your cycle no matter the age or life experience of a woman (menstruation, pregnancy, menopause).
But, it’s not just light that affects our sleep.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 67 percent of women lose sleep when they have their period. In addition to exposure to blue light, change in hormone levels, cramps, breast tenderness, headaches and change in temperature can influence sleep. It is also not uncommon to experience insomnia days before your period and disruptive sleep while on your period. Most cycle charting applications such as Pink Pad recognize insomnia as a common symptom of the menstrual cycle, listing it as a symptom women can report in the app’s interface.
Factors That Affect Your Sleep
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that ovulation and the increase in progesterone experienced as a result of ovulation leads some to experience REM sleep earlier in the sleep cycle, which means they would experience less deep sleep. They also found that women who suffer from PMS, experience little to no REM sleep at all. And of course, with an increase in hormone levels comes an increase in temperature, leading to a week or two of restless sleep or for pregnant women or women in menopause, months and months of hot temperature nights.
Although disturbance in sleep can be linked to other issues such as stress and emotional tensions, hormonal changes need to be carefully considered, monitored and cared for just as equally.
While staying up late watching television or working on your computer is common, most women do not understand the effect this can have on your sleep pattern and if ovulating or menstruating, these activities can increase the imbalance.
So what can you do to better balance your hormone and sleep cycles? We’ve compiled some helpful tips to better care for your sleep cycle and in turn your menstrual cycle.
9 Tips for Better Sleep During Your Menstrual Cycle
Wind down before bed, and not in front of a screen. Reading, writing in a journal or taking some time to reflect will not only relax your mind, but give your brain a break from the “blue light” of screens. Screen devices emit blue light, which keeps melatonin at lower levels, which can inhibit sleep.
2. Lights out!
Keep melatonin levels high by ensuring your room is dark. Remove any blue light sources and hang thick drapes over windows to keep the street lights out! Try your hand at this DIY tutorial on making “blackout” drapes!
3. Temperate Temps
Keep the temperature of your room comfortable and not too hot or too cold.
4. Sound Effects
White noise, such as the noise of a ceiling fan, can often help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
5. Track It
Just like tracking the symptoms of your menstrual cycle can provide valuable insight to your product health so too can tracking your sleep patterns in a sleep diary or mobile app.
6. Ask an Expert
Talking to your health care provider about sleep disturbances is also beneficial, especially when these are linked to your menstrual cycle.
Every so often enjoy a warm bath or shower before bed to relax your muscles and mind. Treat yourself with this bath melt recipe.
8. Diet Wise
Avoid grains, sugars and caffeine before bed. Limiting your liquids before bed will also ensure you won’t need to get up during the night.
9. Be Consistent
We recognize it with our kids, and we need to recognize it for ourselves too. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep… every night!
Have some sleep tips that you want to share with the Diva Community?