How To Sleep Better On Your Period, Because PMS Insomnia Is A Serious Struggle
I, like most people with a vagina, have a bone to pick with my menstrual cycle. Listen, I sat through the growing-up program in elementary school. I read through all the pamphlets, lived through approximately 168 cycles since the ripe age of 12, and yet somehow, up until this past year or so, I'd never experienced the immense inconvenience that is menstruation insomnia. I’ve been rattling my brain trying to figure out how to sleep better on my period because, guys, this has never happened to me before. Struggling with PMS fatigue is bad enough, but how am I supposed to combat the daytime exhaustion if I can barely sleep through the night without waking up to pee, or — my personal fave — for no reason at all?
If nothing else, I guess I can take some comfort in the fact that I’m definitely not alone in experiencing these awful sleeping patterns during my period. According to Reader’s Digest, a survey issued by the National Sleep Foundation found that a whopping 67 percent of women struggle to get a decent night’s sleep during their cycle. So not only are you going to bleed, it’s likely you’re going to be tired AF while doing so. Now isn’t that just peachy?
I understand the physical side effects of a period, like abdominal cramping and back pain, but sleeping is literally how your body recharges and heals itself so you feel refreshed in the morning. So why, then, is your body rejecting sleep when, in reality, snoozing could be your saving grace during that time of the month? Naturally, it all comes down to hormones.
In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Alisa Vitti, founder of Flo Living, author of WomanCode, and creator of the period-tracking app MyFlo, says your quality of sleep during menstruation is a direct reflection of your hormone levels — specifically, estrogen and progesterone. In the days leading up to your period, Vitti says, estrogen and progesterone levels rise, then fall. This is pretty standard, and shouldn’t trigger any strange symptoms. But, “when you have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone to keep this all balanced,” Vitti explains, that’s when insomnia, on top of PMS, can happen.
“When [progesterone] is low, you have less ability to balance out your estrogen levels,” she tells Elite Daily. “This is the source of the insomnia: Elevated estrogen negatively impacts melatonin and serotonin production. The combination of both is what we need to fall asleep and stay asleep.”
OK, so PMS sleepiness, and lack there-of, is all affected by what's going on inside your body. Now that we've identified the problem, let's talk solutions. If you, like me, are experiencing PMS insomnia, refer to the following advice from the experts to help you snooze soundly, steadily, and sans interruption all night long, no matter where you are in your cycle.
Work With Your Body To Balance Your Hormones
According to Vitti, when it comes to balancing hormones, your first line of defense is going to be the different types of food you're putting into your body. "You’ve got to improve that ratio of estrogen and progesterone — while also not adding fuel to the fire with poor dietary habits," she tells Elite Daily.
So how can you go about doing that? Well, one option, Vitti suggests, is to give her FLO Living 4 Day Hormone Detox a try. The program, she says, is most effective the week before your period, and includes a whole bunch of carefully crafted recipes to help you balance your estrogen and progesterone naturally. However, if you're not looking for a regimented plan, you could also just focus on implementing foods like flax seed, legumes, and other plant-based proteins to regulate estrogen in your diet, as well as nuts, and produce high in vitamin C to stabilize progesterone levels.
Shift Your Focus To Micronutrients
Your macronutrients (i.e. proteins, carbs, and fats) are important, sure, but when it comes to balancing out your hormones, Vitti says your main concern should be the little guys — aka micronutrients — which can have a huge impact on your sleeping patterns. To start, Vitti tells Elite Daily, focus on this threesome: vitamin B6, magnesium, and probiotics.
As someone who's primarily plant-based, I hear a lot about the importance of the many vitamin Bs all the time. Vitamin B6, specifically, is great for boosting progesterone in women, and can be found in poultry, tuna, as well as in a variety of seeds and nuts. Magnesium is next, and this one is huge for regulating sleep hormones, but according to Vitti, magnesium levels "are often depleted," so it might be worth it to take a supplement, or use a magnesium spray, to ensure your body is absorbing enough of it. Probiotics, she says, are also key because they can help the body break down excessive amounts of estrogen.
Take A Break From Coffee
Erase the motto "but first, coffee" from your vocabulary the week before and of your period if you want any chance of sleeping through the night. According to Vitti, not only does caffeine wake you up, it "disrupts your adrenals," aka the two most vital glands sitting pretty above your kidneys producing super important hormones, including sleep hormones. So it's best you make the smart switch to decaf until Aunt Flo takes her leave.
Pop A Pain-Reliever
Dr. Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg, OBGYN and medical advisor to DeoDoc Intimate Skincare, tells Elite Daily one of the main reasons you might be tossing and turning at night on your period is because menstrual pain is preventing you from getting some much-needed R&R. So when the going gets rough, and holistic remedies aren't an option at 1 a.m., pop a painkiller like ibuprofen or Midol, and the tension should dial down a bit so you can sleep soundly.
Calm Your Nerves With Soothing Music
If it's not PMS pain that's causing your sleep disruption, experts from Sound of Sleep tell Elite Daily it might just be that the dip in estrogen and progesterone is amping up your anxiety levels.
Investing in something like a sound machine, or making a playlist on Spotify of calming nature sounds, like crickets chirping, crashing waves, or whale noises (seriously, don't knock it until you've tried it), could help turn down your inner dialogue, and refocus your attention to all things soothing. And when that fails, there's always Kanye's new album, right?
Say Buh-Bye To Blue Light At Bedtime
I think we all know by now that playing with your phone in bed is never productive (and if you don't know, then you clearly have not been paying attention to any of my articles). The blue light emitting from your screen can mess with your natural circadian rhythm, friend, not to mention damage your eyes, so you should probably try not to touch your phone near bedtime anyway, but especially during that time of the month.
Certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner, says scrolling through social media on your electronics — but even more specifically, your smartphone — at night is bad news bears. Phones are "notorious for causing anxiety and keeping us awake," he tells Elite Daily, so lights out has to mean all lights — including the blue ones.