Sleep is a sign of our overall well-being. We need to be healthy to have good sleep and we need good sleep to be healthy.
Hormonal sleep problems
How Menopause Messes With Sleep
As menopause approaches, hormonal changes can affect sleep more than during any other period in a woman’s life.
There is a big impact from the loss of hormones, particularly oestrogen, and sleep quality is affected. There are declining levels of oestrogen long before you are in actual menopause. Hot flushes and irritability can happen off and on throughout the decade before menopause hits which can affect sleep.
Researchers have found that women who have hot flushes during perimenopause (the years preceding menopause, when hormone levels are declining) are also more likely to have sleep disturbances. About 2/3 of perimenopausal women have hot flushes, and many of these women will also have associated sleep problems.
Sleep studies have shown that women are more prone to having their sleep disturbed in the first half of the night by having a hot flush. During REM sleep, in the latter half of the night, women seemed to be more able to suppress their sleep disturbances.
Once you’ve actually made it into menopause, which doctors usually define as at least a year without a menstrual cycle, your sleep will probably settle down, along with your hot flushes. But perimenopausal women may struggle with sleep disturbances for years.
How does your period impact your sleep?
Many women experience sleep disturbances at various points in their menstrual cycle. Here's how your period may affect your sleep, and what to do about it.
All women are different - some might find that their quality of sleep is affected by their menstrual cycle, whereas others will not. Our sleep pattern is regulated by our own circadian rhythm, and that is influenced by fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone throughout the menstrual cycle.
While sleep is usually uninterrupted in the first half of the cycle, issues can begin after ovulation.
After ovulation, cortisol levels can increase, melatonin levels decrease, body temperature is slightly higher, and REM sleep then diminishes.
Later in the luteal phase (the second half of your cycle, in the couple of weeks before your next period), the drop in both oestrogen and progesterone that heralds the coming of a period is classically associated with disturbed sleep. At this time, some women, especially those in the teenage and perimenopausal years, also experience night sweats. If you've ever spent the night before your period tossing and turning in bed - perhaps throwing off your duvet because you're suddenly too hot - you'll be all too familiar with this situation.
Other reasons for a poor night's sleep include stress, a chaotic work schedule, poor sleep 'hygiene', and certain medications and medical conditions, along with caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
How to sleep better during your period
So what can you do to get a better night's shut-eye, if you're struggling with period-related sleep problems? To a large extent, the answers are the same as they would be for anyone else dealing with sleep problems (though with an added focus on mitigating any physical symptoms):
Work on your bedtime routineSleep solutions
Start with the usual sleep-enhancing techniques of exercise, morning light, and sleeping in a dark room. Avoid caffeine and rich foods before bed and stay away from screens a couple of hours before bed.
Can you share something you have tried and tested for sleep? Maybe worked or didn’t work?