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Your Cycle Affects Your… Sleep

Just before and during the first days of your menstruation, you may experience some sleeping difficulties. Why does this happen? What can you do? Five possible causes and solutions if your cycle affects your sleep.

1. Your basal body temperature is higher

After ovulation your basal body temperature (BBT) rises by up to half a degree and will remain somewhat higher right up until your menstruation.  That half a degree is just enough to have an influence on your sleeping pattern. People with a (too) high basal body temperature often have a less than restful night’s sleep and can awaken earlier, according to research from the Dutch Institute for Neurological Science. Do you also find your midsummer night’s dreams disturbed during the warmer months? Then this is the likely culprit.

Survival tip: The ideal temperature for your bedroom should be between 16 to 18 degrees Celsius; as your body temperature dips, you become sleepy (helpful when you’re trying to sleep!). Warming up in the bath beforehand can also ease you into a lovely forty winks; by stepping out of a warm bath and into a cooler bedroom you trick your brain into sleep mode, making the journey into dreamland a whole lot easier.

2. Your dreams are more emotional

Women are more likely to have nightmares and emotional dreams than men (goes without saying), but right before and during the first days of menstruation, the land of Nod can take on a bit of a scarier façade. According to researchers, this is caused by that pesky basal body temperature. Your dreams are not only more lively, the themes are completely different, meaning you’re more likely to remember them once you wake up. Feverish dreams don’t always make for the best night’s sleep, but definitely something to be aware of: dreams are often a barometer for our subconscious thoughts and feelings.

3. Your digestive system is up (shit) creek

Who doesn’t suffer from water retention, constipation, bloating, nausea and cramps right before their menstruation?  And all of that in combination with cravings for pizza, chips, crisps, ice cream, chocolate, sweets, bread, pasta (shall I go on?). Don’t fall for them!  Put the cheese down, woman! Step away from that cupboard! Close that fridge! Junk food only gives us a temporary ‘high’, leaving us feeling lousy afterwards and can cause these annoying symptoms to only get worse. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you).

Survival tip: grab a handful of (unsalted) nuts, peel a banana or bake a deliciously healthy chocolate cake that’s good for you (yes!! It does exist!).  Eat smaller portions, drink plenty of water and definitely don’t eat a heavy meal before going to bed (a helpful tip for any day of your cycle).  Why not try another sleeping position if you have stomach complaints? The foetus position can often help your stomach muscles to relax.

4. You’re getting out of bed at night

Stepping out of bed at night for a wee (or to change a full pad or tampon) is no fun for anyone.  If you have trouble with heavy blood loss during your period (menorragie) it’s often necessary to change your menstruation product every one to two hours. This is reduced at night time (thank you gravity!) but knowing there’s a risk of leaking can often cause a disturbed night’s sleep.

Survival tips:  Peeing a lot at the beginning of your menstruation is definitely normal. The water that your body retains during your luteal phase has to escape somewhere! So no worries there.  You can often expect to poop easier too (admit it, a good poo is very satisfying) but leaking menstrual blood is another story all together. A double layer of protection could help (think tampon in combination with a sanitary towel). Insert your tampon just before laying your beautiful head down for your beauty sleep and change it as soon as you wake up.  Never wear a tampon for longer than eight hours. A menstrual cup, however, is able to be worn for up to 12 hours at a time.

If your sanitary towel doesn’t protect you enough from those red surprises on your lovely white bedsheets, then why not place a folded wash cloth in your frilly underpants and stick your night time sanitary towel onto that? Protect your mattress with an extra bedsheet or protective cover to prevent stains. If that’s still not enough, make an appointment with your doctor. Extreme blood loss during menstruation is a medical condition and there are treatments available.   

5. Hormones are a b**ch

People always blame emotions on hormones. They are right. These amazing (annoying, frustrating, villainous) chemicals set many bodily functions into motion. Not surprisingly, hormones such as the ‘happiness hormone’ melatonin, the stress hormone cortisol and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone influence our sleeping patterns. Ever fallen asleep at your desk while on your period or had to reach for another cup of joe? Then these guys are to blame.

Menstrual syndromes such as PMS or PMDD can make the yellow brick road to dreamland somewhat rocky as these conditions can often make us feel depressed or anxious. Endometriosis and dysmenorroe (the medical term for period pain) can cause sleep problems too; not to state the obvious but the more pain you have, the less likely you are to sleep well.

Survival tip:  It goes without saying: whether or not you’re on your period, take good care of yourself. Drink enough water (no, wine does not count), eat healthily, keep fit, get a grip on your stress levels and take some rest. Take a step back.  Enjoy some yoga or stretching in the evening, or practice some breathing exercises to relax. We know, you’ve heard it all before, but we promise, it helps. You’ve got this, Wonder Woman!

Photo: Hernan Sanchez/Unsplash. 

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Shen Schol

Shen Schol

nice to meet you, happy face

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