The Impact of the Menstrual Cycle on Sleep

The impact of the menstrual cycle on hormonal behavior, quality, and quantity of sleep vary according to the stage. Are you ready to learn more about it? Keep reading!
The Impact of the Menstrual Cycle on Sleep

Last update: 04 December, 2020

The variation in the number of female hormones regulates the menstrual cycle and its effects on sleep. This is because there’s an increase in the synthesis of estradiol linked to increased REM sleep before ovulation.

The synthesis of progesterone, which is responsible for the feeling of drowsiness that many women suffer at that time of the cycle, increases after ovulation.

The hormonal behavior, the quality, and the quantity of sleep vary according to the stage of the menstrual cycle in which a woman might be. Here, we’ll separately discuss each part of the menstrual cycle and its relationship to sleep.

The impact of the premenstrual cycle on sleep

Sleep is affected by the consequences of increased synthesis of estradiol that have several effects at the emotional level in this phase of the menstrual cycle.

It interacts with various regions of the brain such as the bulb, hypothalamus, prefrontal lobes, and the amygdala. Also, it’s responsible for the emotional universe of women during the premenstrual phase of the cycle.

Let’s analyze what happens just before menstruation when oestradiol rates are high. At this time, women may notice:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
A woman with a headache.
Hormonal changes during the premenstrual period often lead to mood swings and sleep disturbances.

Sleep disturbances that take place in this phase are usually attributed to an increase in cortisol levels and adrenalin. This is because they generate stress.

As you can see, stress affects sleep in various ways. A woman in the premenstrual period could have difficulty falling asleep, wake up throughout the night, and wake up tired.

Professionals advise doing more activities that contribute to the handling of stress such as yoga and meditation during the premenstrual period. This is because these activities usually improve the amount of sleep and its quality.

The impact of the menstrual cycle on sleep

The levels of estradiol decrease and those of progesterone increase during the menstrual period. This usually normalizes the sleep-wake cycle when the rate of estradiol lowers.

However, sleep disturbances will linger in cases with base diseases such as depression or anxiety. In this case, they’re attributable to psychological disturbances and not to the levels of estradiol.

The progesterone begins to synthesize with ovulation and is responsible for the preparation of the endometrium to welcome the future embryo. Also for maintaining the pregnancy, if there’s any.

Progesterone produces hormonal changes that can affect sleep during the menstrual cycle. It’s responsible for the synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has several antagonistic effects to estradiol.

A woman looking at the alarm clock.
Progesterone affects hormonal changes that can alter sleep during the menstrual cycle.

For example, it modulates impatience, mood swings, reduces distress, and improves stress management. Some authors consider progesterone a natural anxiolytic because it:

  • Diminishes anxiety
  • Relieves the symptoms of depression
  • Improves the emotional state
  • Reduces stress
  • Causes drowsiness

These effects, altogether, explain the improvement of the rate of sleep-wake. Also, they explain the increase in the amount and quality of the dream after menstruation. There could be factors that alter it as consequences of headaches, gastric and digestive annoyances, etc.

In any case, women must pay attention to their menstrual cycle and sleep patterns to detect any alterations that take place every twenty-eight days.

Measures to improve sleep during the menstrual cycle

  • Try to avoid stimulants such as chocolate, coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco afternoon
  • Have a small dinner and wait at least two hours before going to bed
  • Do light physical exercise but avoid the hours just before your bedtime –it would keep you awake
  • Don’t take long naps during the day as they alter your circadian rhythm, keep them to 30 minutes, maximum
  • Maintain regular schedules for going to bed and getting up. Regular meal schedules are also important
  • Avoid exposure to intense light and extreme temperatures in the bedroom
  • Don’t do tasks that require mental activity in the bedroom (using the computer, tablet, cell phone, TV, etc.)

As you can see, female hormones change throughout the menstrual cycle and have various effects on sleep. It’s good to know the relationship of different hormones with these to take steps to improve the quality of rest and general wellbeing.

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