Have you ever had one of those nights where you have work or school first thing in the morning, yet midnight strikes and you are still filled to the brim with energy? As a night owl, this happens to me all the time. However, this past year I started to notice some nights were especially bad. My whole body would feel hot and buzzing with energy, even if I was exhausted from the day before. The clock would suddenly strike 5AM and I would still be wide awake – no matter how many deep breaths I took or sheep I counted. These restless nights were really distressing, filled with lots of staring at the ceiling, racing thoughts, and general existential malaise, until I realized they always happened at the same time every month: The night before I got my period.
As it turns out, your menstrual cycle can affect your bedroom routine in a lot more ways than just the occasional stained bedsheets, thanks to our hormones. “Right before your period, both your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, leading to possible sleep disturbances,” says Navya Mysore, Medical Director of One Medical Group - Tribeca. “Many women say they have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep during this time. Sometimes women can also experience night sweats because of hormonal fluctuations right before their period, and this can also keep them up at night.”
Night sweats? Oh how I know you well. So is there anything you can do to help get a good nights sleep? “It's hard to avoid the reduction in hormone as this is part of your natural cycle. You may feel it less if you are on combined estrogen and progesterone birth control or progesterone-only birth control,” says Mysore.
For those of us who don’t want to go on the pill, knowledge is power. Once I recognized that my sleeplessness always happened the night before my period, I started tracking my cycle. That way I can anticipate when I might have sleep disruptions, so I can just go with the flow, knowing this rush of hormone-induced energy will stabilize in a few days. Tracking your cycle is also great if you experience huge mood swings before your period. You know, the kind of monumental feelings where it seems like everything is a disaster and nothing will help? While tracking your cycle won’t prevent changes in mood, it helps put your emotions in perspective.
But the most important thing is practicing good sleep habits–no matter where you are in your cycle. Being well-rested will help increase your overall health, and make bouts of insomnia easier to deal with than if you are chronically sleep-deprived. “Limit caffeine past noon, exercise regularly but not within 4 hours of going to bed. Keep a cool bedroom environment to help with sleep, powering down screens at least two hours before bed time,” says Mysore. It may seem like a Netflix binge will help you unwind after a long day, but research shows that the blue light emitting from your laptop, phone, or tablet, can totally throw your circadian rhythm out of whack.
“If this doesn't help then sometimes I recommend over the counter melatonin for the few nights around your period to help with your sleep if you tolerate the supplement well,” says Mysore.
Sleeping on your period? Consider your sheets: Shop period underwear.
Follow Dr. Navya Mysore here